Virtually everyone has dry, tired, and itchy eyes from time to time. Taking a break or an early bedtime may be all you need to get back to normal. However, there are times when dry eyes become chronic. Understanding how this happens and what you can do about it can ease the strain on your vision.
The components of tears
Since tears are a clear, colorless, and slightly salty liquid, you can be excused for thinking tears are simply naturally produced saline solution that your body excretes. In fact, salty water is a major component of your tears, but there are two other crucial ingredients to keep your eyes working well and feeling great.
There’s also an oily ingredient that helps your eyelids slide easily over your eyeballs, a key factor in spreading tears across your eyeball. The third substance is mucus, which gives your tears enough viscosity that they spread evenly across your eye’s surface, without dry spots. These three substances work in careful balance to keep the surface of your eyes moist, nourished, and protected.
When things go wrong
Your tear’s components mix in a particular ratio, with just the right balance of oil, water, and viscosity, and most of the time, you need never give your tears a thought. However, when the balance of these ingredients changes, the function of your tears can be disrupted.
When you experience this disruption, the disorder is called dry eyes, or dry eye syndrome when it becomes chronic. It’s sometimes a misleading name, because while dry eyes can literally feel like dry eyes, the condition can also cause overproduction of the water component of your tears. That’s right, some dry eye sufferers have very watery eyes.
The causes of dry eyes vary. As you get older, or when you have certain medical conditions, tear production can decline. Environmental conditions can cause your tears to evaporate faster than they can be replaced, and sometimes layer imbalances happen due to blockages in ducts leading to and from the eyes.
What you can do about dry eyes
What works best for your eyes may depend on the reason you’re experiencing the condition. If reduced tear production is behind your dry eye, changes to nutrition through your diet can help. There’s evidence that increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids can relieve dry eye syndrome.
If you work in a dry, dusty environment, or if you spend plenty of time looking at computer monitors, your eyes can dry out faster than normal. The same is true when you spend time in smoky environments or participating in active hobbies like skiing or bike riding. Even the low humidity environment in your house during the winter months can cause tear evaporation.
Protective eyewear may help if there’s lots of air movement over your eyes. When your eyes are literally dry, using an artificial tear product that closely resembles natural tears may be the answer. Surprisingly, artificial tears also work well for those suffering from overproduction of the saline tear component.
When you can’t get your dry eye under control, it’s time to visit Dr. Jennifer Andrews at Urban Eye Care. As a dry eye specialist, Dr. Andrews and her team know how to assess, diagnose, and treat your condition. Call the office or use the appointment request tool on the website to arrange your personal consultation today.