Have you ever experienced burning and itchy eyes? If the answer is yes, then it is very likely that you are one of the millions of people all over the world who suffer from something called dry eye syndrome every single year.
Often shortened to just ‘dry eyes’, the syndrome is a condition that affects more than 15 million Americans. In fact, almost half of all adults are predicted to experience dry eyes at some point in their lives, with the more serious and acute cases usually occurring after the age of 50.
Something interesting to note is that men and women appear to suffer the effects and symptoms of dry eyes at slightly different rates. If you are a woman, then studies suggest that you are two times as likely to experience dry eyes compared to men in your shared age group.  This is most likely due to different hormonal changes within the body ranging from anything from pregnancy to menopause.
If you are one of the many people across the world who struggles with dry eye syndrome on a regular basis, you don’t have to suffer in silence. Knowing the key symptoms and causes of the condition can be a massive help in seeking out the most effective treatments, and many of these treatments can be self-administered without having to seek out the assistance of a medical professional.
What Are The Most Common Symptoms Of Dry Eye Syndrome?
Though the name of the condition might lead you to think that the key symptoms are pretty simple to guess, there are actually more varied reactions from person to person than you might think. If you are experiencing a combination of any of the following symptoms, then you can be pretty confident that you are suffering with some degree of dry eye syndrome.
- A burning and/or soreness in the eyes that does not go away with sleep or rest.
- In intense itching in and around the eye area that isn’t given anything more than temporary relief when you scratch.
- A noticeable red color in and around the eyeballs that you can’t blame on any immediate actions on your part.
- A sensitivity to light that forced you to squint, almost like the kind of sensitivity that you might have if you were suffering with a mild migraine.
- Slightly blurred vision or vision that is producing some glare effects on certain objects that you stare at.
- A feeling of distinct and unquenchable dryness in the eyes that is causing you to blink more frequently than usual.
To add confusion to the mix, another symptom that can often be counter intuitive to the diagnosis of dry eyes is excessive tear production. This is caused by dryness on the surface of your eyes that starts to trigger tears as a protective and lubrication mechanism.
Annoyingly, these tears that are produced don’t do anything to alleviate the dry feel in your eyes, as they don’t stay present in the problem areas for long enough to provide any kind of real relief or cure for the condition.
What Causes Dry Eye Syndrome?
There are a number of different factors that have been identified as contributing causes to the development of dry eye syndrome. Some of the most common and highly supported theories include:
Age is seen as being the leading cause in most dry eye cases. According to data from the American Optometric Association , the majority of people over the age of 65 experience at least two of the main symptoms of dry eye syndrome on a regular basis.
Certain types of weather conditions can cause dry eyes. In particular, people who spend a lot of time outdoors in places with dry and/or windy conditions are likely to display symptoms at some point. Air that is too dry in an indoor environment can also cause dry eyes, for example on an airplane where the AC system is always on high.
A more recent development in the study of dry eye syndrome has focused on the use of things like smartphones, computers, tablets and televisions. Did you know that the average adult spends seven hours per day staring at electric screens ? The connection with dry eyes comes from the fact that you don’t tend to blink as often as you should when staring at screens, which can lead to lack of lubrication and increased tear evaporation.
Existing Health Conditions
There are a variety of different pre-existing health problems that can be a contributing factor in dry eye syndrome. These include diabetes, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, along with certain medications like those for blood pressure, birth control and allergies.
How Can Dry Eye Syndrome Be Treated?
The kind of treatment that you need for your dry eyes will very much depend on the severity of your symptoms. For the majority of people, over the counter formulated drops will be enough to get rid of the problem, but for those with persistent symptoms or underlying conditions, more extensive treatment might be required.
Prescription drops and ointments can be used to reduce eyelid inflammation, and in some more extreme cases, you might even need blood serum drops which are made by removing your own red blood cells and mixing them with a salt solution to create a mimicked version of your own tears.
When medications and eye drops don’t seem to be working, a physical change might be needed instead. This is commonly in the form of a tear duct plug procedure that uses small silicone plugs to change the shape of your tear ducts so they don’t drain quite so quickly. This can also be done permanently by a surgeon which is known as thermal cautery.
Self-Care Tips To Help Prevent Dry Eye Syndrome
- Make a conscious effort to blink as much as you can when using tech screens.
- When spending time outdoors, always wear sunglasses.
- Drink plenty of water to keep your entire body well hydrated at all times.
- Take dietary supplements like omega 3 fatty acids, as these can help to fight many of the key dry eye symptoms.
- Keep regular appointments with your optometrist so that any small problems with your eyes can be identified at the earliest possible stage.