The causes of dry eye
Poor tear quality:
Healthy tears contain a balance of three layers: oil, water, and mucus. Oil minimizes tear evaporation. Water cleanses the eye and carries oxygen to the ocular tissue. Mucus keeps tears spread evenly and stabilizes the tear film. Diminished quality of any of these layers, and you’ll suffer from dry eyes. Research shows that up to 85% of dry eye sufferers have poor tear quality due to Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD).
Low quantity of tears:
Tears are produced by glands in and around the eyelids. A decreased quantity of tears results from not producing enough tears to moisten your eyes. Many factors can impact tear production.
What is Dry Eye Syndrome?
Back in 2018, our office opened a separate wing called the Midwest Dry Eye Centre. The reason being that there are over 30 million dry eye sufferers in the United States, and it’s growing every single day. Neither of our eyes were designed to sit at a computer for 8-12 hours a day without having to take frequent breaks. When we stare at a computer, our eyes blink 70% less. So I always liken it to not being able to go to the gym for a long time: your muscles end up shrinking. As a result, our glands (called meibomian glands), which are full or oil, release into our tears when we blink our eyes.
There are three layers of tears: the oil, the water, and the mucus. And what ends up happening when we’re not blinking enough is that the glands start to atrophy or become smaller. So, when there’s less oil in our tears, we’re creating dry eyes. 86% of the people with dry eyes don’t have enough oil. They’re making enough tears though. In fact one gentleman who was here not too long ago said his eyes were watery, and I said: “we have a dry eye problem.” He was thinking I was talking with three eyeballs. Basically, quality over quantity. Most people have enough quantity but the quality is poor, so you have what’s called evaporative dry eye.
Factors associated with dry eye
There are many factors that can increase your risk for dry eye, including:
Age—While dry eye can occur at any age, risk increases with aging especially after age 50.
Gender—Women are more likely to develop dry eyes because of hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy and menopause.
Health conditions—People with diabetes, thyroid problems, lupus rheumatoid arthritis and Sjogren’s syndrome are more likely to experience dry eye. Also, inflammation of the eyelids (blepharitis), or surfaces of the eye, or the inward or outward turning of eyelids can lead to dry eyes.
Medications—Both prescription and over-the-counter medicines like antihistamines, decongestants, blood pressure medications, antidepressants and oral contraceptives, can reduce tear production.
Environmental conditions—Smoke, wind and dry climates can increase tear evaporation causing dry eye symptoms.
Computer use—People tend to blink 60% less when using electronic devices and computers for long periods of time, which can also contribute to drying of the eyes.