Dry eye is a common eye problem experienced by people aged 50 and above.
Young People are not excluded – we see them frequently with the same difficulties.
In the U.S., most patients with dry eyes are women who usually experience estrogen fluctuations, pregnancy, and menopause.
Symptoms of this eye condition include:
- itching, burning, or stinging sensation
- sensitivity to light
- watery eyes during certain times while dry in others
- issues when driving at night
- discomfort with contact lens use
- red and sore eyelids
- presence of string-like eye secretion
If you are suffering from dry eyes, this article will help you understand the condition, particularly the tests you must undergo, its causes, and potential treatment.
Dry Eyes Diagnosis: 4 Tests to Undergo
Besides checking for the symptoms, you can undergo some tests in the best eye hospital in the UAE to determine why you have dry eyes. This includes:
- Comprehensive eye exam
You can undergo a comprehensive eye exam that takes your complete medical history into account. This should give your eye doctor enough data to determine the cause of your dry eyes. If not, you may be asked to undergo other tests.
- Schirmer test
This measures the volume of baseline tears your tear gland produces. It involves the use of blotting strips, which are placed under the lower eyelids for up to five minutes. Once the time is up, the doctor will check the amount of tears absorbed in the strip.
- Phenol red thread test
Tear volume can also be measured using the phenol red thread test. As the name implies, this examination makes use of a thread that changes color depending on the pH level it is exposed to. The thread only needs to be wetted with your tears for 15 seconds to get the results.
- Tear quality tests
Other procedures can be used to determine the quality of tears. Some of these use special dyes in eyedrops to allow the eye doctor to check for staining patterns in the corneas. This will help check the average time before your tears evaporate.
What Causes Dry Eyes? 10 Common Causes
Understanding the reason behind your dry eyes could affect the choice of treatment significantly. In some cases, dealing with an underlying medical condition helps improve dry eyes.
Below are the ten common causes of dry eyes:
Although anyone can experience dry eyes, the condition becomes much more common as you get older. Upon reaching the age of 50 and up, your tear production declines.
Water, oil, and mucus comprise human tears. However, some medicines reduce the mucus produced in them, leading to chronic dry eye.
Some medicines that cause this are:
- Beta-blockers (those used for hypertension treatment)
- Excessive screen time
People who work on computers and other screens may experience tension headaches and eyestrain often.
On top of that, staring at screens for extended periods can affect the amount of tears present in the eyes. This is primarily because of a lower blink rate and inefficient blinking, which causes moisture to evaporate faster than it normally would.
- Lack of vitamin A
Dry eyes can also be caused by a lack of Vitamin A.
This nutrient found in fish, eggs, carrots, spinach, peppers, and broccoli is vital for eye health. Lack of this vitamin leads not only to dry eyes, but other vision impairments as well.
Vitamin A deficiency can be verified with a blood test.
Biochemicals or hormones also affect tear production.
They stimulate the production of tears, which means an imbalance may lessen tear production. This is also the reason women experience dry eyes while using birth control pills and during menopause and pregnancy.
Since hormone replacement therapy won’t work, the best thing you can do is talk to your eye doctor in Dubai about possible remedies (or use some of the options presented below).
- Exposure to the wind
Strong winds and cold climates also play a role in dry eyes because they cause tears to evaporate too quickly.
Even the AC blast in your car, or the effect of the AC flow over you or your bed at night may exacerbate your dry eyes.
- Sjögren’s syndrome
Sjögren’s syndrome (an autoimmune disorder) is a condition where the white blood cells attack the tear and salivary glands, inadvertently leading to lower tear production.
Your dry eyes may also be a result of an allergic reaction. Eyes become red, itchy, and watery during an allergy, flushing away your best / stable tears, leading to “wet friction” and more reactive tears.
Although antihistamine tablets are among the most common treatments for allergies, it may worsen dry eye symptoms. Consult your eye doctor if this is the case.
- Mild dehydration
In some cases, dry eyes can occur if you’re mildly dehydrated. This happens when you don’t drink enough fluids.
If caused by dehydration, dry eyes may be accompanied by other symptoms, such as:
- Dark urine or lack of urine
- Low energy
- Rapid heartbeat
- Use of contact lenses
Contact lens use can also cause dry eyes, especially when you’ve been wearing them for a long time. This is because certain lenses obstruct the flow of oxygen to the cornea.
Contact lenses can also cause a “foreign body reaction”, which has similarities with an allergic reaction to the overused contact lenses.
How to Treat Dry Eyes: 3 Recommended Remedies
Aside from dealing with the external factor or underlying condition behind dry eyes, you may also try one or more of the following remedies, based on your doctor’s recommendation:
- Artificial tears
Over-the-counter artificial tears are one of the most popular dry eye treatments. This product comes as eye drops and helps moisten the eyes.
In some cases of dry eye with moderate symptoms, artificial tears might be enough to ease the discomfort. However, it may be necessary to use it several times during the day.
If you want a longer-lasting eye moisturizing effect, your eye doctor can also prescribe ointments for you. Take note that these can make your eyesight cloudy temporarily, although they coat the eyes better than liquid eye drops.
That said, only use ointments before bedtime. Never use them when going outdoors or performing tasks that require clear eyesight, like driving.
- Eye inserts
There are times when OTC artificial tears (also called “tear replacement drops”) can no longer do the job. When this happens, your ophthalmologist may recommend the use of eye inserts.
These are tiny, clear tubes of medicine that look much like rice grains. They are placed directly between the lower eyelid and eyeball. They release medicine that keeps the eyes moist throughout the day.
Overcome Dry Eyes
Understanding chronic dry eye helps you find the best way to overcome it. Just remember that you should still consult a licensed eye doctor before taking any action to treat this condition.
AUTHOR BIO: Dr. Millicent M. Grim, Specialist Ophthalmologist & LASIK Specialist, is the Medical Director of Gulf Eye Center in Dubai. Since 2002, Gulf Eye Center's highly qualified ophthalmologists and optometrists/ODs have been successfully treating a wide range of eye conditions using advanced techniques. They also provide comprehensive eye care and vision restoration procedures for people of all ages.