Dry Eye Causes
The eye depends on the flow of tears to provide constant moisture and lubrication to maintain vision and comfort. Tears are a combination of water, for moisture; oils, for lubrication; mucus, for even distribution; and antibodies and special proteins, for resistance to infection. These components are secreted by special glands located around the eye. When there is an imbalance in this tear system, a person may experience dry eyes.
In addition to an imbalance in the tear-flow system of the eye, dry eyes can be caused by situations that dry out the tear film. This can be due to dry air from air conditioning, heat or other environmental conditions. Other conditions that may cause dry eyes are:
- The natural aging process, especially menopause
- Side effects of certain medications such as antihistamines and birth control pills
- Diseases that affect the ability to make tears, such as Sjogren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis or collagen vascular diseases
- Structural problems with the eye lids that don’t allow them to close properly
When tears do not adequately lubricate the eye, a person may experience:
- Light sensitivity
- A gritty sensation
- A feeling of a foreign body or sand in the eye
- Blurry vision
Sometimes, a person with a dry eye will have excess tears running down their cheeks (called reflex tearing), which may seem confusing. This happens when the eye is irritated from dry eyes. The eye sends a distress signal through the nervous system for more lubrication. In response, the eye is flooded with tears to try to compensate for the underlying dryness (it’s similar to getting sand in your eye which causes your eye to tear a lot). However, these tears are mostly water and do not have the lubricating qualities or the rich composition of normal tears. They will wash debris away, but they will not coat the eye surface properly.
There are a number of steps that can be taken to treat dry eyes. If you are experiencing dry eyes, it is important to schedule an eye exam with an eye care specialist. Dr. Haguewood at Palmetto Eye & Laser Center in Spartanburg can evaluate your condition and discuss treatment options with you. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Haguewood, contact Palmetto Eye & Laser Center at 864-583-6381 or palmettoeyeandlaser.com today.