Eye health: dry eyes

Dry eyes is a fairly common condition and it occurs when there’s a problem with the tear production process or with the quality or quantity of tears produced. Women are twice as likely to suffer with this ailment.

Symptoms include:

  • Sore or gritty eyes.
  • Dry or burning eyes.
  • Blurred vision that improves after blinking.
  • Watery eyes (this occurs because the eye tries to produce more tears to relieve the dryness)

The most common causes are:

  • Hormonal changes, such as during pregnancy, menopause or when using the contraceptive pill.
  • Environmental factors, such as too much sun, wind or heat.
  • Activities that can either strain the eyes by making you stare more or reduce your blink rate, such as reading, writing or using the computer for prolonged periods of time.
  • Medicines, which include some antidepressants, antihistamines, and certain blood pressure-lowering medicines (diuretics and beta-blockers)
  • Using contact lenses.
  • Recent laser eye surgery.
  • Medical conditions such as Bell’s palsy, Sjögren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

If left untreated some complications can occur such as

  • Conjunctivitis, which is an infection of the eye and may need antibiotics to resolve
  • Keratitis, which is an inflammation of the cornea, which, again, may need antibiotics, prescription eye drops or anti-viral medicine.

The good news is dry eyes are easy to manage. Here’s a few ways you can reduce the effects of dry eyes:

  • Keep yourself hydrated and drink plenty of water.
  • Try an over the counter product that’s designed to alleviate dry eye symptoms, like artificial tears or lubricating eye drops.
  • Keep your eyelids and eyelashes clean by gently cleaning them.
  • Omega-3 may help to ease symptoms but this has not been proven. It can be found in oily fish and plant-based sources like walnuts and rapeseed oil.

If you are at all concerned you can speak to a pharmacist, optician or the health professionals in the eye clinic who will be able to advise you on the best treatment for you.