Can Dry Eyes Affect Your Vision?
Many people find themselves perusing the eye care aisle in their local grocery stores or pharmacies in attempts to find ways to combat their dry eyes. While many of us think of dry eyes as a temporary condition (often attributed to something like seasonal allergies), persistent and chronic dry eyes can be a symptom of a much more serious health issue and can contribute to vision problems.
What Tears Are Made Of, And Why They’re Important
Tears are made from water (for moisture), mucus (which causes even spreading), oils (for lubrication), and infection-fighting proteins and antibodies. The meibomian glands around the eyes help secrete tears.
When your eyes are dry, something is causing your glands to not work properly. This results in an array of eye-related symptoms, including:
- Blurred vision
- Grittiness in the eye
- Feeling like you have a foreign particle in your eye (like dust or an eyelash)
- Sensitivity to light
Also, sometimes when you are experiencing dry eyes, your eyes might create too many tears since the eyes are irritated by dryness, causing them to overflow.
What Causes Dry Eyes?
There are many potential causes of dry eyes. Generally, when there is a severe case of dry eyes, the meibomian glands are blocked, so tears cannot form like they normally would. A few of these other causes include:
- An imbalance in the tear-flow system
- Indoor temperature (especially when an air conditioner or heater is running)
- Aging (including the onset of menopause in women)
- Antihistamines and other drugs that cause side-effects
- Diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s Syndrome, and collagen vascular diseases
- Conditions that cause the eyelids to not fully close
Dry eyes can be diagnosed and treated by eye doctors, but those with more advanced dry eyes or who present with autoimmune disorders like Sjogren’s Syndrome and rheumatoid arthritis will likely need to consult with other specialists to more holistically treat the many symptoms of their disorders.
What Kind of Damage Can Dry Eyes Cause?
Mild cases of dry eyes generally do not cause much lasting damage. Advanced cases of chronic dry eyes, however, can cause damage to the front surface of the eye (especially the outer oily layer, middle watery layer, and inner mucus layer of the ocular lens) and lead to permanent visual impairment. The cornea (which protects the eyes from UV rays, dust, and germs) can get scratched, leading to scarring and visual loss. If The scratching of the cornea becomes extremely severe, the entire eye might be lost.
How Can Dry Eyes Be Treated?
Dry eyes can be treated a few different ways. Artificial tear solutions purchased over-the-counter are generally the cheapest and easiest route to go for milder cases of dry eyes. Conserving natural tears by blocking the tear ducts with removable gel-like or silicon plugs is another possible treatment, as is a surgical procedure to close off the tear ducts.
Additionally, an eye doctor might prescribe a medication to increase tear flow or advise you to take omega-3 fatty acid supplements to increase moisture in your eyes. There are also a variety of ways for treating inflammation of the eyelid surface, including ointments, eyedrops, lid massages, warm compresses, and eyelid cleaners.
You can be proactive on your own by taking better care of your eyes. Remember to blink when you’re staring at a book or computer screen for a long period of time, and wear protective eyewear when you are outside, even in the winter.