What is dry eye syndrome?
Dry eye is a common condition where your eyes don’t produce enough tears (or where the tears evaporate too quickly). It is also known by the medical term 'keratoconjunctivitis sicca'.
This condition currently affects two in three adults in the UK.
So, what causes dry eye?
The front surface of the eye is covered by a thin layer of liquid called the tear film. This layer helps ensure the eye remains moist, whilst nourishing and protecting your eyes against infection. The tear film is made up of three layers: the oil layer (lipid), water layer (aqueous) and the mucous layer.
Dry eye syndrome is caused when your eye doesn’t have enough of one of these layers. Although it may affect people of any age, your chances of developing dry eye syndrome increases as you grow older.
What symptoms might I experience?
- Watery eyes
- A feeling of dryness or soreness
- Feeling like there is 'grit' or 'sand' in your eye
- Eyelids that are stuck together when you wake up
Severe symptoms of dry eye may include:
- Blurred vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Extremely red and painful eyes
If you experience any of the above, you should arrange an appointment with your optician.
What are some of the affecting factors?
There are many different factors that can contribute to dry eye, although a single identifiable cause can’t often be found. Below is a list of common causes:
- The environment: The sun, wind and a dry climate can have a drying effect on your eyes. Your tears will evaporate quicker than they can be reproduced in these conditions and therefore leave you with dry eyes.
- Ageing: As you age, the eye naturally produces fewer tears. The eyelids become less effective at spreading the tear film evenly across the eye, leaving dry patches.
- Contact lenses: Wearing your lenses for longer than suggested can cause your eyes to become dry and irritated. New materials tend to be more breathable, but you should always follow your wear schedule advised by your optician.
- Pregnancy: During pregnancy, a woman’s hormone levels change frequently and as such, the body’s production of tears can be affected. This results in a reduction of moisture levels in the eye and dry patches to appear.
- Medical conditions: There are a number of medical conditions that affect the body’s production of tears, such as Sjögren's syndrome: a condition that can cause excessive dryness of the eyes, mouth and other organs, and rheumatoid arthritis: a condition that causes pain, swelling and inflammation of the joints but also the glands around the eyes.
How are dry eyes diagnosed?
Your optician can typically diagnose dry eyes from a simple conversation about your symptoms. They may ask a range of questions to determine the severity as dry eyes can be a sign of an underlying disease.
Your optician will use a yellow-orange dye called fluorescein which will allow them to see your tears more clearly. This helps them calculate how long it takes for your eyes to begin drying out and whether it’s within average limits. If there is damage to the eye, the fluorescein dye may highlight the affected areas.
What can you do to manage dry eye symptoms?
Symptoms can often be relieved using self-help measures such as eye drops and re-wetting agents.
Blink Contacts soothing eye drops have been developed to bring relief to contact lens wearers eyes. They work by replicating the action of natural tears, essentially moisturising dry-feeling eyes and reducing discomfort.
To help manage eye-dryness symptoms, Blink Refreshing Eye Mist is an easy-to-use alternative to eye drops for those who want extra refreshment during the day or for those who find eye drops difficult to use. The mist is designed to hydrate, refresh and lubricate dry feeling eyes. It can be used with or without contact lenses.
These are just two options available to help relieve eye dryness from the blink eye care range. You can view the full range here. Your optician will be able to recommend the best suited product for you to use. In some cases, a more medical approach to treatment may be required.
Always consult with your optician if you feel like your symptoms have persisted or if you believe your contact lenses may be a contributing factor.