Top Causes of Dry Eyes
Dry eye syndrome affects millions worldwide yearly, with approximately 21.3% of Canadians – about 6.3 million individuals – being diagnosed with this condition. This necessitates professional eye care providers like Garibaldi Eye Care to provide education and treatment options for this common issue.
Understanding Dry Eye Syndrome
Dry eye syndrome, often labeled dry eye disease, is a common disorder of the eye’s tear film. The tear film, which nourishes and protects the eye’s surface, consists of three layers: oily (lipid), watery (aqueous), and mucous. A lack in the quantity or quality of any of these layers can lead to dry eye syndrome, discomfort, and potential vision impairment.
Top Environmental Causes of Dry Eyes
Our environment profoundly influences our eye health, potentially leading to dry eye syndrome. Specifically, factors such as air conditioning, low humidity, and allergen exposure are known contributors to dry eyes. Let’s break these down for a deeper understanding:
- Air Conditioning: While air conditioning can make our environments more comfortable, it can also inadvertently contribute to dry eyes. Air conditioning systems often lower humidity levels, leading to drier air. This dry air can cause the tear film on the surface of our eyes to evaporate more quickly than usual, leading to dryness and discomfort.
- Low Humidity: Just as with air conditioning, environments with naturally low humidity can cause the eye’s tear film to evaporate too quickly. This quick evaporation means that our eyes are not sufficiently lubricated, causing dryness and potentially leading to other symptoms of dry eye syndrome.
- Allergens: Exposure to allergens such as dust and pollen can cause an inflammatory response in our eyes. This inflammation often leads to an overproduction of the watery layer of tears, which, without adequate oil to slow evaporation, can lead to quick tear evaporation and dry eyes.
Understanding the environmental factors contributing to dry eyes is the first step toward management and relief. It allows us to make necessary ecological and lifestyle changes for improved eye health.
Top Behavioral Causes of Dry Eyes
Certain behaviors and habits can also contribute significantly to dry eye syndrome. From excessive screen usage to poor dietary habits, let’s delve into the specifics:
- Screen Usage: One of the most common culprits of dry eye symptoms in our digital age is excessive screen usage. Whether it’s a computer, tablet, smartphone, or television, prolonged visual attention to screens can decrease our blink rate. Blinking is essential as it helps spread fresh tears across the front of our eyes for lubrication and nutrient delivery. When we stare at screens, our blink rate can drop by up to 50%, leading to dry, uncomfortable eyes. Additionally, looking upwards at a screen causes more of your eye to be exposed to the air, which can also lead to increased evaporation of tears.
- Poor Blinking Habits: In addition to reduced blink rate, incomplete blinking can lead to dry eye symptoms. Incomplete blinks can result from concentrated tasks such as reading or driving, contributing to dry eyes by not fully refreshing the tear film with each blink.
- Inadequate Hydration and Nutrition: Dehydration and poor nutrition can negatively impact the quality and quantity of tears, leading to dry eye symptoms. Consuming insufficient water or a diet lacking essential fatty acids (omega-3) can hinder the production of quality tears, leading to dry eyes.
- Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD): MGD, also labeled as posterior blepharitis, is a common condition where the Meibomian glands found along the eyelid edges fail to produce enough oil for the tear film. This lack of fat can lead to quick tear evaporation, causing dry eyes.
- Autoimmune Disorders: Certain autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, lupus, and Sjogren’s syndrome, can reduce tear production, increasing the risk of dry eyes. For instance, in Sjogren’s syndrome, the immune system mistakenly attacks the glands that produce tears and saliva, leading to dry eyes and mouth.
- Vitamin Deficiencies: Deficiencies in specific vitamins can contribute to dry eye symptoms. Vitamin A, D, and B-12 deficiencies can negatively impact the tear film’s composition and function. Vitamin A is essential for the health of the cornea and conjunctiva, while vitamin D plays a role in tear film production and ocular surface health. B-12 deficiency can affect the eyelids’ nerve function, which may indirectly influence the blinking mechanism and tear film stability.
Recognizing the potential medical roots of dry eye syndrome is crucial for effective treatment. If you suspect that an underlying condition may be causing your dry eye symptoms, a comprehensive examination by an optometrist can help guide the best treatment plan.
Treatment Options for Dry Eyes
Treatment of dry eye syndrome is contingent upon its cause. Short-term or temporary dry eye caused by environmental or behavioral factors can often be relieved by avoiding low-humidity environments or taking screen usage breaks. Over-the-counter eye drops can also be effective for temporary relief. However, chronic dry eye syndrome requires a more targeted approach, sometimes encompassing prescription eye drops and other therapies. A notable treatment for MGD is IPL (Intense Pulsed Light), which exposes the glands to special light, improving their function and reducing clogging.
Visit Garibaldi Eye Care Today
Early diagnosis and comprehensive treatment of dry eye syndrome are essential to prevent potential discomfort and complications. Optometrists guide this process, from diagnosis to personalized treatment plans. Choosing the right eye care provider is critical in managing and treating dry eye syndrome.
Garibaldi Eye Care, located in Squamish, is a leading choice for dry eye treatment. Our team of experienced optometrists uses advanced diagnostic tools to accurately diagnose dry eye syndrome and its root causes, whether environmental, behavioral, or medical.
Armed with this knowledge, we tailor each patient’s treatment plan to their unique needs, considering their lifestyle, medical history, and symptoms. This individualized approach ensures that our patients receive the most effective treatments, from lifestyle recommendations to prescription medications and even advanced therapies for cases of chronic dry eye.
With our dedication to quality care, continuous learning, and patient satisfaction, choosing Garibaldi Eye Care means choosing exceptional eye health management. If you’re experiencing dry eye symptoms and are in the Squamish area, schedule an appointment with us—your eyes will thank you for it.