Dry Eyes: Causes, Symptoms and Remedies

Everyone suffers from dry eye symptoms from time to time. Staring at a computer screen for long periods of time, reading for hours on end, working under fluorescent lights all day and spending time outdoors in the sunshine on a windy day can all cause eye problems. But these problems are usually only temporary. When eyes feel itchy, dry, and burn from overuse, resting your eyes will usually restore them to their normal state. When a person suffers from Dry Eye disease, the symptoms of itchiness, dryness, burning and discomfort do not go away when resting your eyes. These symptoms are ever present to some degree and it may feel like the best solution is to keep your eyes closed, since closed eye lids can offer protection and soothing relief.

Dry Eye disease is most common in people over 50 and more so in women than men. This may be due to the lack of estrogen in older women. Dry Eye disease can also be caused by arthritis, which is an inflammatory disease that can affect tear production in the eye. Since tears bathe the eyes and keep them moist, a lack of tears can cause extreme discomfort, blurred vision, redness, extreme sensitivity to sunlight, gritty feeling and itchiness. This discomfort causes a person with Dry Eye to involuntarily squint a lot since squinting reduces the surface area of the eye that is exposed to the air. Also, these symptoms may prompt a person to rub their eyes often and this in turn can introduce bacteria into the eye which can cause infection.

People who suffer from Dry Eye learn from experience to avoid shopping malls and large arenas if possible. This is because the large open spaces have a lot of air movement which is very noticeable to someone with Dry Eye. Spending time outdoors on a windy day can also cause extreme discomfort. When driving, air conditioning or heating vents must be positioned to direct the air flow away from the face. Any environment with any degree of air flow can cause dry eyes to become extremely gritty and painful. And sunglasses are a must when spending any time outdoors on sunny days.

Inserting artificial tears can alleviate the symptoms of Dry Eye, but this relief only last for a few minutes. An eye doctor may recommend the insertion of silicone plugs into the tear ducts that drain the tears away from the eye, but this approach may not offer much relief, if any. Eye drops available by prescription offer some relief after 2 to 3 weeks of continual use, but your insurance company may or may not cover this expense. Restasis and Xiidra are two such drugs that do lessen the symptoms of dry eye and must be used twice a day to be effective.

Living with Dry Eye means making some modifications to one’s lifestyle. Using artificial tear drops frequently, wearing sunglasses when outdoors, avoiding windy environments, limiting time spent working on a computer, getting audio books instead of reading are some of the adjustments that Dry Eye sufferers learn to live with.