Dry eye syndrome can occur when there is a problem with the tear film that normally keeps the eye moist and lubricated. It’s our tears that protect our eyes from infection, keep them clean and free of dust. Dry eyes are a common cause of eye irritation and can mean that your eyes are not producing enough tears or that your tears are evaporating too quickly.
What are the symptoms?
- Irritation of the eyes – including feeling dry, sore or gritty
- Temporary blurred vision
- Not liking bright lights
- Contact lenses starting to feel uncomfortable
Though it is more common in women and people aged 65 and over, dry eyes can affect anyone. It can be caused by environmental factors, such as exposure to the sun or wind causing the tears to evaporate, and certain activities such as prolonged reading or working on a computer. The ageing process can result in fewer tears being made and women may also find that changes in hormone levels during the menopause, pregnancy or while using the contraceptive pill can increase the risk of dry eye syndrome.
Dry eyes can also be a symptom of a more general disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and Sjögren’s syndrome. In these situations you would normally have symptoms in other parts of the body.
If you’re concerned, contact your local SPECS network optician.
There is no cure for dry eye syndrome but there are simple treatments to help control the symptoms. Eye drops and gels can be used as artificial tears and are usually good at relieving symptoms. Ointments can also be used to lubricate the eyes and soothe the irritation.