Picture this. You’re sitting in your office staring at your computer screen, there is a fast approaching deadline. You don’t have time to take your eyes off the screen. It’s winter time so the heat is blasting! You find your vision blurring and you blink, which helps for a split second. Then you start feeling your eyes well up but you’re not sad. What’s happening?!
Most people think of dry eyes as burning/stinging/red. While this is also true, there are many uncommon symptoms of dry eyes including:
Intermittent blurry vision that fluctuates with blinks
- Watery eyes
- Itchy eyelids
- gritty/sandy feeling in eyes
Wait, how can watery eyes possibly indicate dry eyes? There are 2 parts of our tear film – one part is the water component and the second are the oils that prevent that water from evaporating too quickly. These oil glands are found within the upper and lower eyelids (Meibomian glands); if they are blocked, you’re not producing enough oils and your brain sends a signal to lubricate with more of the water component.
Why do I get this sandy/gritty feeling in the eyes? Just like we have normal gut bacteria, we also have normal bacteria on our skin, including the eyelids. For some people, there is an excess of this bacteria and it can produce a microscopic flaky/dandruff-like material that builds at the base of the lashes. This can fall into and irritate the eyes throughout the day.
How else do dry eyes happen?
- Age – as we get wiser, our tear film naturally becomes drier
- Gender – females get the wonders of hormonal changes that can affect the tear film (menopause, pregnancy, oral contraceptives)
- Medications – certain medications including (and not limited to) anti-histamines, blood pressure medications, antidepressants can affect the tear film
- Medical Conditions – inflammatory conditions such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Sjogren’s Syndrome + Thyroid conditions + Diabetes to name a few
- Environment – A/C in summer, heating in winter, windy/dry climates, exposure to smoke, etc.
Okay, I get we are exposed to lots of dry eye causes, what are some solutions?
- Warm Compresses (using heat to open up those blocked Meibomian glands)
- Artificial tears, NOT VISINE (constricts blood vessels to make it APPEAR as though the eyes are less red)
- Humidifiers (helps with dry air indoors)
- Drink lots of water!
- Wrap-around sunglasses or fitovers to protect from outdoor wind
- Keep A/C and heat vents pointed away from face (downwards)
- Lid scrubs (cleansers, wipes)
- Take breaks from staring at a screen/near material
- Prescription drops (eg. Restasis) if necessary
- Avoid smoking/exposure to cigarette smoke
So, if any of this sounds familiar to you, contact your eye care professional for some recommendations tailored just for you!
Dr. Manvit Singh