- Age â€“ dry eye is a part of the natural aging process. The majority of people over age 65 experience some symptoms of dry eyes.
- Gender â€“ women are more likely to develop dry eyes due to hormonal changes caused by pregnancy, the use of oral contraceptives, and menopause.
- Medications â€“ certain medicines, including antihistamines, decongestants, blood pressure medications and antidepressants, can reduce the amount of tears produced in the eyes.
- Medical conditions â€“ persons with rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and thyroid problems are more likely to have symptoms of dry eye.
- Environmental conditions â€“ exposure to smoke, wind and dry climates can increase tear evaporation resulting in dry eye symptoms. Failure to blink regularly, such as when staring at a computer screen for long periods of time, can also contribute to drying of the eyes.
- Other factors â€“ long term use of contact lenses can be a factor in the development of dry eyes.
So how do we prevent eyes from drying?
- Adding tears â€“ Mild cases of dry eyes can often be managed using over-the-counter artificial tear solutions. These can be used as often as needed to supplement natural tear production. Preservative-free artificial tear solutions are recommended because they contain fewer additives that could further irritate the eyes. However, some people may have persistent dry eyes that donâ€™t respond to artificial tears alone. Additional steps need to be taken to treat their dry eyes.
- Conserving tears â€“ An additional approach to reducing the symptoms of dry eyes is to keep natural tears in the eyes longer. This can be done by blocking the tear ducts through which the tears normally drain. The tear ducts can be blocked with tiny silicone or gel-like plugs that can be removed, if needed. A surgical procedure to permanently close tear ducts can also be used.
- Increasing tear production â€“ Prescription eye drops that help to increase production of tears can be recommended by your optometrist, as well as omega-3 fatty acid nutritional supplements.
- Treatment of the contributing eyelid or ocular surface inflammation â€“ Prescription eye drops or ointments, warm compresses and lid massage, or eyelid cleaners may be recommended to help decrease inflammation around the surface of the eyes.