What is dry eye?
Dry eye disease happens when your eyes don’t produce enough tears. This can cause your eyes to dry out. It’s a very common condition and has a wide range of causes.
Symptoms of dry eye
Dry eye usually affects both eyes at the same time. Signs that you have dry eye may include:
- A stinging, burning or scratchy sensation in your eyes
- A sensation of having something in your eyes
- Sensitivity to light
- Eye redness
- Difficulty wearing contact lenses
- Difficulty driving at night
- Watery eyes (this is the body's response to the irritation)
- Blurred vision or eye fatigue
Causes of dry eye
- Ageing. Dry eye tends to happen to people over 50 because tear production declines with age.
- Closed environments. Certain situations such as travelling on an airplane or being in an air-conditioned room can cause dry eye.
- Medications. Some medications can cause dry eye, including antihistamines and decongestants, antidepressants and birth control medication.
- Computer use. Staring at a computer means you blink less. This can affect your tears and lead to dry eye.
- Vitamin A deficiency. A diet low in foods that contain Vitamin A (which promotes healthy eyes) can lead to dry eye. Foods for good eye health include oily fish, leafy greens and eggs.
- Wearing contact lenses. Some contact lenses can reduce the amount of oxygen that reaches your cornea, leading to dry eye.
- Exposure to wind. Wind and cold climates can cause tears to evaporate quickly, leading to chronic dryness.
Treating dry eye
The most common treatment for dry eye is using eye drops. Changing certain lifestyle habits, such as regular computer breaks, also help to prevent your eyes drying out.
Preventing dry eye
Some things that can help prevent dry eye include:
- Avoiding air blowing in your eyes. Ensure hair dryers, car heaters, air conditioners or fans are positioned away from your eyes.
- Adding moisture to the air. Use a humidifier to add moisture to dry indoor air.
- Wearing sunglasses. Ask your Westfund Eye Care Centre about recommended sunglasses to best protect your eyes.
- Taking eye breaks. When reading or doing tasks that require visual concentration, take regular breaks. Close your eyes for a minute or two, or blink repeatedly for a few seconds.
- Being conscious of your environment. Travelling on an airplane, high altitude areas and outback areas can be drying on the eyes. In these situations, have eye drops on hand and frequently close your eyes to minimise evaporation of your tears.
- Avoiding smoke. If you smoke, quitting can help prevent dry eye. If you’re not a smoker, to reduce your exposure, stay away from people who do.
- Using eye drops regularly. If you have chronic dry eyes, eye drops can help keep your eyes well lubricated.
If you find you regularly suffer from dry eye, it can help to pay attention to your environment and note what activities can cause it. That way, you can try to avoid these situations and prevent dry eye from happening in the first place.
Want to know more?
Do you have concerns or questions about your own eye health? We're here to help - call 1300 937 838.