We need a good level of moisture to prevent dry eyes from occurring and many factors can increase evaporation of tears and the quality of tears, too. And guess what? We need tears to keep eyes lubricated and healthy! As we get older, it’s harder to produce tears and a decline in tear production is inevitable– ageing and getting dry eye are strongly linked. However, there are many factors and reasons for getting dry eye beyond how old (or young) someone is.
In no particular order:
- Women are more at risk of getting dry eye because of hormonal changes during pregnancy, menopause and oral contraceptives.
- Wearing bad quality contact lenses or using them too frequently. Contact lense users often complain about having dry eyes or report it as the main reason for going back to wearing glasses permanently.
- Refractive eye surgery (LASIK), commonly known as laser eye surgery, can promote dry eye from decreased tear production.
- Frequent flying, e.g. those who travel abroad for business, airline cabin crews or long-haul flight journeys, are at a higher risk of experiencing dry eye.
- Eyelid problems, such as an inability to close eyelids, which can happen during sleep, blinking difficulties, damage from wearing fake eyelashes or having had a stroke before.
- Deceased humidity and dry climates very easily promotes dry eye from the of the lack of moisture in the air. Low humidity also causes static electricity, dry skin, lips and hair, scratchy throats and noses, and itching and chapping.
- Smoking can cause dry eye as the tobacco smoke itself is a significant irritant and can promote adverse effects on the pre-corneal tear film and tear film instability.
- Scientists generally believe that using a computer device or watching the TV too much (aka screen time overload) can ‘change your eyes’, which result in changes in tear fluid and blinking less than half the amount we should be. We normally blink 10-15 times a minute. Also, computer use tends to cause more incomplete blinks, so the tear film is not spread across the entire cornea.
- Medicines are also associated with dry eye, including antihistamines, decongestants, blood pressure medications, antidepressants, acne medicines, Parkinson’s medications, sleeping pills, pain relievers (mainly ibuprofen but not very common), medications for anxiety, hormone replacement therapy to relieve symptoms of menopause, and birth control pills. Women who take only estrogen are much more likely to get dry eye than women who take both estrogen and progesterone.
- Certain medical conditions can also contribute to dry eye, including diabetes, thyroid disease, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disorders, Vitamin A deficiency, seasonal allergies, scleroderma, and Sjögren’s syndrome.
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