Dry Eye

Dry Eye Can Occur for Several Reasons

What is dry eye?

Normally, your eyes are kept moist by the tears that bathe the surface. The action of blinking spreads the tears across the surface of your eyes. Tears contain important substances that lubricate the eyes, prevent infection and slow down evaporation of the tears.

Dry eye can occur as a result of not producing enough natural tears or because your tears evaporate too quickly.

Dry eye is one of the most common of all eye conditions. Although it particularly affects older people, it can occur at any age. It is also more common in women.

What are the symptoms of dry eye?

Symptoms can include dryness, grittiness, burning sensation or stinging and this can result in ocular surface damage.

Your eyes may look slightly red, feel heavy and become sensitive to bright light. Symptoms may be less when you first wake up, and become worse as the day goes on.

Symptoms can be triggered by various situations. These include:

  • Activities that make you blink less often, e.g. reading, driving, working at a computer monitor or watching television.
  • Exposure to wind, dry climate, pollution
  • Air-conditioning, which can produce a dry atmosphere.

What causes dry eye?

  • Ageing
  • Hormonal changes during pregnancy or menopause
  • Some health conditions
  • Environmental factors
    • Wind
    • Smoke
    • Dry air blowing from air conditioners or heaters
  • Reduced blinking and eye strain from staring at a computer or TV Screen for extended periods of time
  • Contact lens intolerance
  • Certain prescription medications

Can I still have dry eye if my eyes water?

Yes, this is possible. Occasionally your eyes may be so irritated by dryness that the glands in the eyelids produce more tears to compensate, causing your eyes to water. Symptoms may persist because of poor quality tears.

Do I need any tests?

Your eye care professional can examine your eyes and assess the amount of tears you produce and check for any damage to the surface of the eyes. The specialist can advise you about the use of artificial tears and ways of keeping your eyes moist.

How can my eyes be treated?

The standard treatment for dry eye is the regular use of artificial tear drops. The Allergan range of artificial tears includes OPTIVE® range of eye drops, and the REFRESH® range. These drops can be used as often as needed to keep your eyes comfortable. This may vary from a few times a day to every hour.

If you need to use drops very frequently, you may want to avoid preservatives. Drops are available from pharmacies with or without prescription from your doctor. Ointments are also available such as REFRESH NIGHT TIME® eye ointment, which give longer-lasting, overnight protection.

Special wrap-around spectacles can also be used to stop the wind drying your eyes.

How can I help myself?

  • Apply artificial tear drops as required.
  • Lower the level of your computer monitor so your eyes are looking downwards while you work – this will slow down evaporation of your tears.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to keep your body well hydrated.
  • Use a humidifier at home or at work — especially where there is air-conditioning.
  • Watch out for situations where you may blink less often, e.g. when reading, watching television and looking at a computer monitor and try to blink more frequently when concentrating on these tasks.
  • Wear wrap-around spectacles when you are outside to stop the wind drying your eyes.
  • Avoid places where wind or smoke can irritate your eyes.