3 Underlying Reasons for Dry Eyes

16 September 2016
 Categories: , Articles


Dry eyes may seem like a minor problem, but for some people the condition is more significant. When you have dry eyes, it is important to determine the underlying reason and find an appropriate treatment for the overall health of your eyes.

Allergies and Antihistamines

Seasonal and indoor allergies are common culprits of dry eyes. Other environmental factors such as smoke and other irritants in the air may contribute the a classic feeling of something being in your eye. When you suffer from allergies, you must avoid the urge to rub your eyes. Not only will this increase eye irritation, but it may cause you to scratch your eye, especially if you wear contacts.

Unfortunately, many allergy medications can also have the side effect of making your eyes drier. When you take antihistamines, make sure you are increasing your fluid intake to combat side effects. In general, once-daily allergy medications are less drying than antihistamines meant for acute control over symptoms. If your predominate symptom is eye irritation, you may want to consider using retail eye drops containing an antihistamine, which have the benefit of lubricating the eye while reducing the impact of allergens.

Autoimmune Diseases

If you have a personal or family history of autoimmune diseases or you experience dryness in other parts of your body, you should be especially concerned about Sjogren's syndrome. Sjogren's syndrome is an autoimmune disease that attacks the mucous-secreting glands in the body. It is possible to have primary Sjogren's, which means it is the only autoimmune disease present, but it is more common to have secondary Sjogren's. When Sjogren's occurs in combination with another autoimmune disease, it is often diagnosed in people with lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or inflammatory bowel disease.

Some people with Sjogren's may experience only one symptom, such as chronic dry mouth and reduced saliva production, whereas others may notice symptoms throughout their body. Severe cases of Sjogren's can cause breathing problems or make it difficult to swallow food. Much like other autoimmune conditions, there is no cure, but some people respond to medications that suppress the immune system. During flare-ups of the condition, you may need steroid eye drops to help minimize long-term damage to your eyes. Dry eyes are just one way autoimmune diseases affect the eyes. Overall eye inflammation is also common in people with Sjogren's or other autoimmune diseases.

Idiopathic Decreased Tear Production

A lack of tear production can occur without the presence of a disease process (idiopathic). Many people who experience chronic dry eyes use artificial tears or rewetting drops frequently throughout the day. Although artificial methods of adding moisture to your eye can help temporarily, they are not the best overall strategy for increasing eye moisture. There are medications available that can work to increase your own tear production. They are typically eye drops you use twice per day. The benefit of using prescription eye drops is that increasing your own tear production allows your eyes to remain lubricated throughout the day and night.

In some cases of dry eye, the problem can be severe enough for the eyelid to stick to the surface of the eye. This is more likely to occur overnight because you are not using artificial tears as you sleep, and constantly blinking throughout the day prevents your eyelid from resting on your eye too long. If your eyelid becomes stuck, the force of trying to open your eye can cause tears in your cornea, possibly leading to long-term eye damage.

If dry eyes become more than an occasional problem, you need to speak with your eye doctor. Whether the underlying reason for dry eyes is mild or severe, the sooner you can identify the problem, the easier it will be to treat and minimize long-term damage.

Talk to a professional, such as one at Olympia Eye Clinic, Inc., P.S., for more information.