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Dry eyes, also known as DED (Dry eye disorder), is a multi-factorial disease that can range from mild to severe, causing not only discomfort but also vision loss and eye damage.
It is caused by either low production tears due to loss of watery and mucus layer in the tear film of eyes or due to rapid evaporation of tears due to loss of lipid (oily) layer of the tear film.
Symptoms are very vast and dry eye disease is one of the major causes of visits to ophthalmologists. It ranges from burning, itching, redness of eyes, gritty sensation in eyes, watering, occasional blurring of vision, increased sensitivity to light, eye pain & fatigue, and headache. It is important to know the cause and the factors that predispose to the development of DED.
Chronic allergy of eyes, eyelid infections (blepharitis), eye mass, loosening of eyelids (also K/A ectropion), chemical injury to eyes, after eye surgeries, prolonged contact lens use.
Dry eyes can be caused due to pregnancy, hormonal changes, autoimmune diseases such as Sjogren syndrome, thyroid disorders, diabetes, neurological disorders such as Bell’s palsy, Vitamin A deficiency, and medications such as antihistamines, sleeping pills, pain relievers, and oral contraceptives.
Hot, dry, dusty weather, excessive exposure to screens and laptops, and excessive use of air conditioning can cause dry eyes.
Ophthalmologic examination is required to determine the cause and predisposing factors for dry eyes and to treat them. Following a thorough history, a full eye examination is performed to assess the degree of dry eyes, the volume of tears, the quality of tears, and the condition of the Meibomian glands (which provide the lipid layer of tears).
Eye conditions, systemic disease, lifestyle, and environmental conditions need to be treated together to provide rapid relief from the condition.
The maintenance of thyroid and blood sugar levels is critical for eye health and the rapid relief of dry eye symptoms and signs. But lifestyle modifications also play a crucial role in minimizing the risk of developing dry eyes. Dietary changes, exercise or yoga, Vitamin A and D rich diet, flaxseed oil, fish oil, omega 3 and omega 6 supplements are all important forms of supportive therapy for DED. Additionally, using humidifiers, blinking more often, avoiding excessive screen time, and taking breaks from computers every half hour may aid in the treatment of dry eyes.
Dry eyes are a common and often chronic problem that interferes with daily life and quality of life. If the signs and symptoms of dry eyes persist after making lifestyle changes, seek medical attention from an ophthalmologist to receive further investigation and effective treatment before other serious complications arise. DED can be permanent in some patients with systemic disorders and can be stabilized with appropriate therapy. Only an eye specialist’s careful examination of your eyes can reveal the presence and severity of dry eye syndrome.