Dry eye is a common condition. It has many causes, including what you’re doing right now: looking at a computer screen. If your eyes feel dry, blink and look away. You might notice they feel a little better.
People get dry eye for two basic reasons:
- The eyes don’t make enough tears
- The tears evaporate too quickly to keep the eye moist
About one-third of older adults have dry eye, and about twice as many women as men.*
Symptoms of dry eye
Common symptoms are:
- Eye pain, such as burning or stinging
- A sandy or gritty feeling, like something is in the eyes
- Red eyes
- Blurry vision
- Watery eyes or eye discharge that looks stringy
- Sensitivity to light
Symptoms might be worse at certain times. For example, dry eye can get worse when you work on the computer, read or do other activities that require steady focus. Your eyes might feel especially dry in cold or windy weather or environments with dry air, such as airplanes. If you wear contact lenses, they might feel uncomfortable or be hard to keep in.
Causes of dry eye
Dry eye can be caused by eye problems, other health conditions, medications and environmental factors. Some of the causes are:
- Not blinking often enough – Staring at a computer or video screen can cause dry eye.
- Medications, inc.luding some allergy medications. Other medicines that can cause dry eye include nasal decongestants, blood pressure medicine, antidepressants and birth control pills. Taking estrogen-only hormone replacement therapy increases the risk of dry eye much more than estrogen-progestin HRT.**
- Eyelid problems, such as diseases of the eyelid glands and skin around the eyelids.
- Diseases that affect the immune system, including a disease called Sjogren’s syndrome that causes drying of many mucus membranes in the body.
- LASIK or other refractive surgery.
If too much of the eye’s surface is exposed, this can cause dry eye. Some people have cosmetic surgery that opens the eyes too wide. A thyroid condition called Graves disease can cause bulging eyes and dryness (former First Lady Barbara Bush had this condition). Some people have a condition that keeps their eyelids from closing completely when they sleep. This can make the eyes dry.
Only an eye doctor can find the cause of your dry eye. Request an appointment with your Oregon Eye Specialists doctor or meet our caring, experienced physicians to find out what’s causing your symptoms.
* Sources: Up To Date™, National Eye Institute.
**Source: National Eye Institute.