Dry eye is a condition wherein there are insufficient quality tears to nourish and lubricate the eyes. Tears provide clear vision and maintain the health of the eye’s front surface. However, they become unstable and inadequate for various reasons such as aging, one’s medication, and certain medical conditions. Dry eyes occur when there is an imbalance in tear production and drainage. Find out what causes this and if it is related to existing health issues.
What causes dry eye
The three-layered precorneal tear film is essential for eye health. It comprises layers of fatty oils, mucus, and aqueous fluid. It keeps the eye surface clear, smooth, and lubricated. Any problem with these layers leads to dry eyes, such as hormonal changes, inflamed eyelid glands, autoimmune illness, and allergic eye disease. In addition, abnormal tear production, which is either decreased or increased, causes dry eye.
Adults aged 50 years old and up are more likely to experience dry eyes because tear production tends to diminish as people age. This is also why dry eyes are more common in older people. Women are also more susceptible to hormonal imbalance leading to dry eye during pregnancy, menopause, or contraceptive use. People who lack vitamin A are also at risk for it, as those who wear contact lenses and have undergone refractive surgery. A dry eye solution is usually the first treatment to address dry eyes, but doctors recommend other options depending on severity.
Health conditions that lead to dry eye
- Sjögren’s syndrome. This autoimmune disease causes white blood cells to invade the tear glands and salivary glands, decreasing tear production. Doctors may prescribe eye drops, but if it does not help, they may recommend inserting silicone plugs that preserve tears in the tear ducts.
- Lupus. People who have lupus are also likely to experience dry eye. The autoimmune condition affects different parts of the body. It can damage structures in the eye and cause inflammation of the nerves and blood vessels.
- Rheumatoid arthritis. This chronic inflammatory disease mainly affects the joints, but it can also affect the eyes, commonly leading to dry eye. The same antibodies that attack the joints can affect the eyes and disrupt tear production.
- Diabetes. Dry eye is a common complication of both type 1 and type 2 Diabetes because of increased blood sugar levels. High blood sugar causes nerve damage, which in turn leads to decreased tear production. It also causes inflammation, making it harder for the lacrimal glands to produce tears.
- Allergies. Allergies may trigger dry eye, and antihistamines that reduce allergies may worsen the condition.
- Mild dehydration. Dry eye may also be a result of dehydration when the body does not have enough fluid to perform normal functions.
It is essential to know the underlying cause of dry eye in order to address the problem correctly. Dry eyes need to be treated immediately, for it may lead to other conditions such as inflammation and infection that damage the eyes.