Tears consist of water, fatty acids, and mucus. If your eyes cannot produce enough or the body does not have enough of any of these components it can lead to dry eyes. Dry eyes are uncomfortable, can be painful, and feel tired and itchy. Without the proper lubrication, your eyes can be under stress which can then put the rest of your body under stress. The lubrication also helps protect your eyes from infections so if you are suffering from dry eyes you should try to get it treated as soon as you can.
There are many reasons you could have dry eyes; your age, your environment, medications you may be taking or naturally poor tear production. These can cause issues with any or all of the components that make up tears.
Oil – There are small glands on the edge of your eyelids that produce lipids which make up the outer layer of your tears. The oil both smoothes the surface of your tear and slows the absorption of the water inside it. When there is no oil or not enough, the water can evaporate faster than it’s meant to causing dry eyes. Your glands can also be clogged due to inflammation, rosacea, or other skin conditions. If your glands are clogged it can hinder the production of oil creating dry eyes.
Water – The water component is mostly water and a tiny fraction of salt. This solution helps to clean the eye and wash away anything that shouldn’t be there. If you are dehydrated and can’t produce enough water the oil and mucus components of the tear will create stringy discharge.
Mucus – The final layer of the tear is the mucus layer which ensures that the tear is evenly spread across the eyeball. You can develop dry spots across the eye if there is not enough mucus in your tears.
Are you at Risk?
Older than 50 – cell production along with tear production slow down with age. The fewer tears you can produce, the dryer your eyes will become.
Menopause – if you are going through, or have gone through menopause, hormonal changes can cause a reduced production of tears.
Medical Conditions – there are a few certain medical conditions that can cause dry eyes; diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disorders, and a deficiency in vitamin A can all lead to reduced tear production.
Eye Surgery – laser eye surgery can create a dry and itchy feeling in the eyes in the days following the procedure. Thankfully, this is a temporary side effect.
Damage to the Eye – if your tear glands are damaged due to inflammation or radiation therapy your tear production can be negatively affected.
Eyelid Problems – If you have an issue that makes blinking difficult it can mean that your tears or lubrication won’t be spread evenly, or at all, across the eye. This can lead to dry eyes or an out-turning or in-turning of the lids.
Medications – high blood pressure drugs, antihistamines, HRT medications, and some antidepressants can have dry eye symptoms as side effects. If you find that since starting a new medication you have been experiencing dry eyes you should speak to your doctor.
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