You may not give that much thought to your eyes. They are what they are until they become uncomfortable. You may experience dry eyes occasionally, or this may be an ongoing problem for you. If you are experiencing eye dryness, you are not alone. There are many possible causes of this uncomfortable condition.
The Symptoms of Dry Eyes
Your eyes are lubricated by tears. Tears are a combination of oils, water, mucus, proteins, and antibodies that fight infection. When this lubrication system is not functioning, it is not providing enough moisture, and you may then notice several symptoms.
- Redness or irritation
- Light sensitivity
- A gritty feeling when you close your eyes
- Blurred vision
- Stringy mucus in or around the eye
- Sensitivity to smoke or wind
- Uncomfortable contact lenses
- Watery eyes
The last symptom can get a bit confusing. You may not have considered that you have dry eyes if your eyes water frequently. Your eyes water because your body is trying to fight the dryness by creating more tears. These tears are mostly water, so they do not moisturize your eyes the same way as the tears that contain natural oils, mucus, and proteins.
Dry eyes can be caused by the natural aging process. Women are more susceptible to dry eyes during menopause. Sometimes dry eyes can be caused by medications, like antihistamines, decongestants, antidepressants, and some pain relievers.
There are many other causes.
- Dysfunction of the oil glands that produce oils to lubricate the eyes
- Inflammation around the edge of the eyelids (blepharitis)
- Ocular rosacea (more than half of rosacea patients also have ocular rosacea)
Dry eyes are also a symptom of several other medical conditions.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
If you know you have a medical condition and are troubled with dry eyes, you may want to speak to your doctor or your eye care professional.
Digital Eye Strain
You may not know that in today’s tech-savvy society, your electronic devices could also be contributing to your dry eye problems. If you invest an ample portion of your day using a computer, tablet, cell phone, or television, you could be suffering from digital eye strain. The light emitted from the screen of your favorite device is blue light, just like sunlight. Research shows that our prolonged exposure to blue light may be having an adverse effect on our eye health. Digital eye strain can cause dry eyes and other symptoms for several reasons.
- Reduced Blinking Rate
People blink 66 percent less than they normally would when they are looking at a screen. After an extended period of time, your eyes may feel achy and dry.
- Repetitive Eye Movements
When working at a computer, we tend to look at the screen, then down at a paper or keyboard, then up at the screen again, many, many times. The screen also produces an imperceivable flicker, when you combine this with the glare, your eye muscles are getting quite a workout.
Consequences of Blue Light
Your continuous exposure to blue light may also make it difficult to fall asleep at night. Blue light cues our brains that it is time to be awake. Not getting enough rest can also make your eyes feel uncomfortable. Research suggests that overexposure may increase your risk of macular degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma.
If you have digital eye strain, you may also notice blurred or double vision, light sensitivity, and watery eyes, among other symptoms.
- Neck or shoulder pain
- Eye pain
If you have dry, scratchy, uncomfortable eyes, you may want to speak with your eye care professional. The best eye doctors can suggest ideal treatment options based on the causes of your dry eyes. They could include:
- Eye drops
- Nighttime ointments
- Artificial tears
- UV-blocking lenses for computer use
- Lifestyle recommendations
You can live your life without the discomfort of dry, scratchy eyes. Contact the Michigan Eye Institute for more information. Our team of experienced metro Detroit eye doctors have been serving the community for more than 26 years.