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What Are the Causes of Dry Eye?

Moisture is incredibly important for the health of your eyes. It’s so important, in fact, that you blink between 12 and 15 times a minute to ensure that your eyes are properly lubricated throughout the day. If your eyes are not receiving sufficient moisture for some reason, you can develop chronically dry eyes. What causes this to happen, and what treatment options can you use to manage this problem? Keep reading to find out more from our experts in Southwest Orlando eye care in Orlando, FL.

Low-Quality Tears

Many people assume that dry eyes are due to insufficient tear production. However, it’s much more likely that your dry eyes are caused by an issue related to the quality of tears and not quantity. Your tears are made up of much more than just water. They’re actually a combination of water, oil, and mucus, which help to protect and nourish your eyes. The oil helps your eyes retain moisture and prevent it from evaporating, while the mucus helps to spread the tears more evenly over the eye’s surface. If your tears do not have the proper ratio of water, oil, and mucus, the tears may not spread evenly, or they may evaporate too quickly, leading to dry eyes.

Decreased Tear Production

Of course, quantity can sometimes cause dry eyes, though it is less common than low-quality tear production. This is most often seen in elderly patients, as tear production can sometimes decrease with age. Additionally, certain medications—antihistamines, decongestants, hormone replacement therapy, antidepressants, birth control, and more—can cause decreased tear production. If you’ve changed your medications recently and have begun to experience persistent dry eyes, speak to your doctor about whether or not your medication may be the cause and if there are alternative options.

Increased Tear Evaporation

As we stated, tear evaporation can increase if you produce low-quality tears. However, other factors can cause your tears to evaporate more quickly. One common cause of this is when the small glands on the edge of your eyelids, known as the Meibomian glands, become clogged. This is typically seen in individuals with skin disorders like rosacea.

Certain activities like prolonged reading or screen usage can decrease your blinking (contributing to the gritty, strained feeling you get in your eyes after these activities). Decreased blinking will also allow tears to evaporate more quickly. However, regarding long-term, chronic dry eye, reduced blinking is usually only seen with certain conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease.

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Treatment Options

Dry eyes might seem like a minor issue, but chronically dry eyes can lead to eye infections and other health problems. It’s important to diagnose the cause of your dry eyes so that you can treat the root of the problem for a more long-term solution. For example, if a medication is causing your dry eyes, you might look into switching to a different type of medication for your condition. If your dry eyes are caused by an eyelid condition, such as your lids being turned outwards, an eye surgeon may be able to correct this surgically so that you no longer suffer from dry eyes.

In addition to treating these root causes (or if the cause cannot be treated, such as in the case of simple aging), other treatment options can provide relief. Specialized contact lenses, surgical plugging of the tear ducts, and the use of lubricating eye drops are all options to help treat dry eyes.

If you have chronic dry eye, contact Bay Hill Eye Care today to schedule an appointment with an optometrist, or stop by one of our eyeglass stores in Orlando today.