What Causes My Dry Eyes?
There are numerous causes and risk factors that contribute to the development of dry eye syndrome.
Dry eye syndrome is a chronic eye condition that is characterized by dry eyes and other symptoms including:
- Itchy eyes
- A gritty sensation
- The sensation of a foreign body in the eye
- Crusty eyelids
- Blurred vision
Your tears comfort your eyes in many ways. Water moisturizes, an outer layer of oils lubricates and prevents evaporation, and proteins help protect against infection. Dry eye strikes when your eyes can’t produce enough tears for lubrication or the moisture in your tears evaporates too quickly.
What is Meibomian Gland Disorder?
In 80% of cases, Dry Eye Syndrome is caused by some problem with the meibomian glands, which produce the lipids (oils) essential for proper eye lubrication and for maintaining the appropriate breakup time (evaporation rate) of tears. The glands can get blocked or even atrophy by infection, environmental factors, and lifestyle.
Dry Eye is a very common condition which we treat in our practice. Some recent research by Harris Interactive indicates that about 70% of people with dry eye don’t ever see an eye care professional, despite the fact that nearly half of all Americans suffer from dry eye symptoms to some extent on a regular basis. This is unfortunate as most patients stand to benefit immensely by appropriate treatment for dry eyes. At our St. Louis eye clinic, we develop a custom treatment plan for you, tailored to treat the specific causes of your dry eyes.
Dry Eye Syndrome has probably always existed, especially in the presence of environmental factors such as dust, cold, dryness, and, pollution. However, it seems to been getting more common and more severe, particularly over the last decade.
One likely reason is the explosion in the use of digital devices. More and more, we spend many hours of the day continually looking at computers, smartphones, and digital televisions. This makes us stare for long periods of time while blinking much less than normal. Infrequent blinking, in turn, causes our meibomian glands to be blocked and even atrophy, resulting in serious and chronic dry eye syndrome.
The widespread use of contact lenses is likely also a contributing factor. Long days of use, combined with improper care and cleaning irritates the eyes and contributes to dryness and discomfort.
Various medications, becoming more widespread, also have side effects including dry eyes. Lastly, age is the most common contributor to developing dry eyes. As we live longer and longer, the rates of dry eyes are bound to increase.
At Rosen Optometry, we use the latest technology to test the makeup of your tears. This includes:
- how quickly tears break down and evaporate
- The chemical and pH balance of tears
- the lipid (oil) to water ratio
- and more.
The technology we employ at our St. Louis Dry Eye Clinic includes:
- Visual examinations
- Fluorescein dye
Dr. Rosen answers your questions about TearLab
TearLab measures the salt concentration of the tears and is used in the diagnosis and management of Dry Eyes. The higher a patient's salt concentration is in their tears, the more likely they are to have Dry Eye symptoms.
What is it about this particular technology that you find most exciting; the component that made you feel you need to invest in this for your practice?
Can you describe the patient experience when using the TearLab?
Can you share a particular story, in which by using the TearLab, you were able to detect and treat a case of dry eye that would have otherwise gone undetected?
Another tool used by our dry eyes experts is InflammaDry, which tests the level of inflammation in your eyes. This dry eyes diagnostic tool tests whether or not a patient has elevated levels of something called MMP-9 in their tears from the inner lining of the lower eyelid. MMP-9 is a protein which indicates inflammation, which is fairly common for anyone suffering from dry eyes.
Our St. Louis eye doctor will typically prescribe steroids in order to get the eye inflammation under control.
Fluorescein Dye Test
Dr. Rosen, or another of our dry eye doctors, will also test your tear-breakup time. Essentially, if the makeup of your tears are off, they will sometimes simply evaporate before they can work effectively. Our eye doctors test your tear breakup time, using a fluorescein orange dye ― which is also useful in spotting other corneal diseases, conditions, or foreign bodies. Our optometrist will gently touch your eye with a tiny amount of special blotting paper. As you blink, the dye will spread and painlessly coat the tear film which covers the cornea. Using a blue light to contrast with the orange dye, the eye doctor is able to see problems revealed in green.
Does Staring at a Screen Cause Dry Eye?
Continuous staring at a fixed object, such as a phone or computer screen, usually results in a decreased blink rate. The lack of blinking actually causes the eyes not to replenish the tears often enough. The meibomian glands, therefore, can become blocked or even atrophy and die.
Does Drinking More Water Help with Dry Eye?
The main component of tears is water. Most of us don’t drink enough water. If you are dehydrated or not drinking enough, then you may not produce enough tears to keep your eyes moist. Snapple, Coke and other caffeinated drinks like coffee and tea may feel like they quench your thirst, but they actually dehydrate the body. Your body needs water to prevent dry eyes symptoms.
Antihistamines and Dry Eyes
Certain medications are known to contribute to dry eyes. In particular, anti-histamines (allergy) medication. Prolonged use of antihistamines will often lead to dry eye symptoms developing.
Beta-Blockers and Dry Eyes
Typically prescribed for controlling blood pressure, beta-blockers are proven to cause or exacerbate existing dry eye symptoms. If you are taking beta-blockers and experiencing symptoms, let us know! Your Burling dry eye doctors can help.
A recent study about the correlation between migraines and dry eyes has interesting results. Comparing migraine sufferers to people without headaches. The results showed a much greater prevalence of dry eye in the migraine group than in those without headaches. So, researchers are speculating that some migraines may worsen when dry eye symptoms are present. It has been recently hypothesized that when people report on headaches these could actually be caused by dry eyes, amongst other factors. However, it is unclear whether one causes the other, or whether computer use is a contributing cause of both headaches and dry eyes.
As we age, we experience hormonal changes. These changes are known to cause or contribute to dry eyes. While this is true of both men and women, it seems that women over 50 are particularly more prone to developing dry eye symptoms.
The following environmental factors are known to play a huge role in causing or contributing to dry eyes:
- Cold-climate and central heating
- Dry climate
- Sandy or dusty conditions
Various diseases contribute to dry eyes. Autoimmune diseases are a known factor. Rheumatoid arthritis, and Sjogren’s syndrome – a common symptom that rheumatologists treat can also contribute to dry eyes. Diabetics or those with Glaucoma that requires medication are more likely to have dry eye syndrome.
One of the main reasons people discontinue contact lens usage is due to dry eyes. The good news is there have been major improvements across all the brands with special contacts that are aimed at preventing dry eye symptoms.
Do You Live in St. Louis, Affton, Crestwood, or South County and suffer From Dry Eyes?
Dr. Steven Rosen, and his wife, Dr. Karen Rosen, are the founders of Rosen Optometry in St. Louis, Missouri.
Rosen Optometry seeks to utilize the very latest technology to diagnose, alleviate, and treat the symptoms of Dry Eyes.
Our St. Louis eye clinic has seen a large increase over the past few years in contact lens wearers who suffer from Dry Eyes. One of the reasons for the increase in Dry Eyes symptoms is the increase in screen time on computers, cell phones, and TV, which causes excessive drying of the eye. Due to the extensive experience of our eye doctors with many specialty contact lens products, our eye doctors have had considerable success in treating contact lens-related dry eye.