What Is Dry Eyes?
In a nutshell, it is an eye condition brought about by insufficient tears.
We need our tears to prevent our eyes from drying out and each time we blink, a healthy eye will sweep a watery saline fluid from our eye duct (corner of eye near our nose) across the surface. In addition to the tear sweep, our eyes (healthy eyes) secrete a thin secretion of fatty compounds to preserve the saline film until we blink again. Someone with dry eye syndrome may have less of the tears and fatty fluid. It can occur in varying degrees for individuals with some people suffering to the extreme. Long term eye dryness can ultimately damage the eyeball. Imagine a sweeping windscreen wiper (eyelid blinking), dragging itself back and forward over a dry windscreen (eye surface) without windscreen wiper fluid (tears) for an extended period and you quickly get the idea of what dry eye sufferers are exposed to and how the eye damage will eventuate.
What are the symptoms?
- A feeling of irritation as if there is something foreign/grit/eyelash in the eye
- Tired eyes (whereby it’s a strain to look at detail and the desire to close the eyes)
- Itching (particularly in the corners whereby you feel the need to rub your eyes)
- Stinging or burning sensation
- Some transient vision irregularity such as brightness, blurriness
Who is susceptible?
Whilst any age group can experience dry eyes, it does become more common as we age as our body secretes less of the mucosal lubrication that is needed (for eyes, mouth, intimate health, nasal as well as internal functioning of our pulmonary, digestive and vascular system). This ageing dryness is common for women when they have passed menopause and particularly if they suffer arthritis, but men suffer also.
Some medications bring about dry eyes, air conditioning can exacerbate the discomfort and some medical conditions such as Sjogrens bring it on.
(Sjogrens syndrome often occurs with other immune system disorders such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. It is an autoimmune disease, unfortunately not uncommon and more so occurring with sufferers over 40, usually women. It predominantly affects the eyes and salivary glands – the mucous membranes and moisture-secreting glands of the eyes and mouth are usually affected first. This results in decreased production of tears and saliva.)
Medications that contribute may include some oral contraceptives, antidepressants, antihistamines for hay fever or other allergies, diuretics and beta-blockers as in blood pressure and heart medications.
Prolonged periods looking at a computer screen or phone can contribute – presumably because blink rate decreases.
Cigarette smoke, dust, chemicals and other such irritants also dry the eyes; even dry air and wind.
Is it serious?
As mentioned above, prolonged dry eyes can lead to permanent corneal damage, transient changes to vision and at the very best: discomfort.
There are professionally conducted tests that can evaluate the dryness of the eyes and a self aware person will notice the discomfort and symptoms and may address the problem early to get relief.
Can I improve my lot?
Symptoms can be alleviated in many cases with eye drops or eye ointments, sea buckthorn oil taken internally to improve mucosal tissue health and eye osmolarity – tear production, avoiding air conditioning (dry air) or at least compensating by placing bowls of water in any air conditioned space, reduce prolonged time in front of computer by taking short breaks regularly, blinking and focusing at different lengths.
If you know you have a problem, or suspect you might, consult with your health care professional for assistance and guidance (doctor, optometrist, opthalmologist.
Our eyes are so precious – close them for 5 seconds and imagine the world of a vision impaired person. Let us never take our sight for granted.
We are not healthcare or medical professionals and the information contained here is not to be taken as medical advice. It is recommended that you consult you healthcare professional prior to taking any supplements and always read the label, use only as directed, and if symptoms persist, see your healthcare professional.