What is Dry Eye?
Dry eye is a common condition that occurs when your tears evaporate at a faster rate than usual, or if your eyes are unable to produce an adequate number of tears.
Tears don’t just flow when you are feeling upset, they should always be there to constantly lubricate your eyes. You can also have dry eyes despite tears flowing down your cheeks – if the tears are of poor quality they stay on the surface of your eyes. You start to produce fewer tears and your eyelids are less effective at spreading the tears across the surface of your eyes as you start to get older. About 33% of over 65’s experience problems with dry eyes.
Symptoms of dry eye include:
- Gritty eyes
- Feeling like something is in your eyes
- Stinging or burning eyes
- Heavy eyelids
- Blurred vision
- Watery eyes (If your eyes water a lot, you may dilute the oily layer of your eyes, causing them to dry out.)
However dry eye has become more common in younger people because of excessive screen use. When we are staring at a screen we blink less frequently, less fully and at a slower rate, so our tears evaporate and are not spread evenly over the eye.
You can help to prevent dry eye by:
- keeping your eyes clean and avoiding using makeup, especially eyeliner
- avoiding high temperatures, central heating, draughts (for example, from air vents in cars) and air conditioning
- ensuring you blink often and look away from the screen at regular intervals, when you are using the computer to give your eyes a rest
- using a humidifier to help slow down the evaporation of your tears
- wearing glasses or sunglasses, ideally the wraparound type, on windy days
- avoiding smoky atmospheres
- having treatment to stop the tears draining away. Small plugs, called punctum plugs, can be put into the holes in your lower eyelids to stop the tears draining away. These can be easily removed if necessary.