Do your eyes feel dry, itchy and uncomfortable on a regular basis? Dry eyes can be caused by a wide range of things and can be a symptom of a variety of conditions.

What are the symptoms of dry eyes?

The symptoms of dry eye syndrome can be irritating and difficult to cope with. It’s common for your eyes to feel gritty, tired and uncomfortable on a regular basis.

What are the causes of 'dry eyes'?

‘Dry eye syndrome’ can be caused by a variety of factors:

  • Air conditioning and heating
  • Medications such as anti-depressants and acne treatments
  • Computer use
  • Medical conditions such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and Sjogrens syndrome
  • Contact lens use
  • Meibomian gland dysfunction

The most common cause of dry eyes is rapid evaporation of tears due to meibomian gland dysfunction. Meibum is an oily substance which prevents tears from evaporating, keeping your eyes hydrated. When a Meibomian gland becomes blocked and inflamed, this oily substance is reduced and your eyes can get dehydrated, making them dry and uncomfortable.

This condition is more common in older people and in post-menopausal women. Dry eye syndrome is commonly experienced by people over the age of 50 in both genders.

Women using birth control pills and pregnant women are also at a higher risk due to hormonal changes.

What are the treatment options for dry eyes?

Artificial tear supplements are a helpful dry eyes treatment solution when tackling this eye condition. In some cases, antibiotics or steroids may be prescribed. Very small plugs (punctal plugs) can be inserted to reduce drainage of tears from the eye and specialist medications such as Restasis may be prescribed. In severe cases serum eye drops can be prescribed.

Dry eyes themselves can’t be ‘cured’ but the condition causing the dry eyes can be, and artificial tear supplements can alleviate the uncomfortable symptoms.

A diet which is low in Vitamin A and Omega-3 fatty acids can cause dry eye syndrome, so taking supplements or eating more carrots, broccoli, liver, fish, walnuts, and vegetable oils can help.

Dry eyes can be caused by wearing contact lenses, so taking a break from them can help. Speak to your optician as switching brand of contact lens may reduce your propensity to dry eye syndrome.

It is important that your surgeon diagnoses and treats dry eyes before embarking on cataract surgery or refractive lens exchange. That is because untreated dry eye disease can reduce the accuracy of intraocular lens measurements, and the uncomfortable symptoms of dry eyes can worsen after cataract surgery.

All surgical procedures carry some risk. The information provided here is for general educational purposes only. Please contact Forest Eye Surgery to find out if eye surgery is appropriate for your individual situation.

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