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Everything You Need to Know About Dry Eye Syndrome

Dry Eye Syndrome is one of the most common eye disorders in the UK, but many people are unaware of the signs and symptoms.

We hope this guide will help shed some light on what Dry Eye Syndrome is, the signs to look out for and what to do to help prevent any unwanted symptoms.

What causes dry eyes?

Dry Eye Syndrome occurs when the complex tear production process is disrupted. It can mean the eyes don’t produce enough tears, or the tears are poor quality and evaporate too quickly. This leads to the eyes drying out and becoming inflamed (red and swollen) and irritated.

When functioning normally, glands in and around the eye produce a tear film made of water, oils, proteins, salts and mucus, to keep the eye’s surface lubricated. If its quality is reduced, it can produce a gritty, burning sensation in the eyes, which can sometimes disturb vision.

Common causes

There are many reasons why people get dry eyes:

  • Being in a windy, hot or polluted environment

  • Wearing contact lenses

  • Certain eye conditions, such as blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelids) or meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD - issue with the tiny glands in your eyelids)

  • Auto-immune problems such as Sjögren's syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and thyroid deficiency

  • Side effects of LASIK surgery (laser eye surgery) or of certain medications

  • Hormonal changes, such as during the menopause

Dry Eye Syndrome can affect people of any age, but as you get older the chances of it increase, with one in three people over the age of 65 experiencing dry eye problems. It is also more common in women than men.

Symptoms of dry eyes

The symptoms of dry eye syndrome usually affect both eyes and often include:

  • Dryness

  • Eyes feeling gritty or sore

  • Excessive watering

  • Pain

  • Blurring of vision

  • Tired eyes

  • Photophobia (sensitivity to light)

  • Redness

  • Foreign body sensation (feeling like you have something in your eye)

  • Discomfort when wearing contact lenses

  • Irritation from wind or smoke

Treatment for Dry Eye Syndrome

Dry Eye Syndrome is not usually a serious condition and treatments are available to help relieve the symptoms, which include:

  • Eye drops to lubricate the eyes

  • Warm compresses

  • Eyelid massages to encourage good quality tear production

  • Medication to reduce any inflammation

  • If necessary, surgery to prevent tears from draining away easily

  • If dry eyes are caused by an underlying condition, treating this condition will usually help relieve the symptoms

As well as medical treatments, there are some things you can do to help prevent dry eye syndrome or reduce the symptoms:

  • Keep your eyes and eyelids clean

  • Protect them from dusty, smoky, windy and dry environments

  • Use a humidifier to moisten the air

  • Use your computer or laptop correctly to avoid eye strain (use the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds)

  • Drink plenty of water

  • Eat a healthy diet that includes omega-3 fats and colourful fruit and vegetables

Seek help

Although dry eyes may be uncomfortable, it does not usually cause any serious problems.

In rare cases, severe, untreated dry eye syndrome can cause scarring of the eye's surface, leading to visual impairment.

Remember to seek help if you have any these symptoms (a good way to remember them is: R.S.V.P):

  • Red eyes

  • Sensitivity to light (photophobia)

  • Vision - a sudden or dramatic change or deterioration in your vision

  • Pain in or around the eyes

Contact your local branch or visit your nearest eye hospital if you experience any of the above symptoms, as they could be a sign of a more serious condition.


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