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Why Are My Eyes Dry? 3 Causes of Dry Eye

Did you know that an estimated 26 million Americans have been diagnosed with dry eye disease (DED) and millions more suffer from dry eye symptoms without a formal diagnosis? That’s nearly 8 percent of the population. What’s more, a 2012 Gallup Poll suggested that nearly 30 million Americans will suffer from the disease by 2022.

Dry eye disease is a common and chronic condition that occurs when your tear glands aren’t able to produce adequate lubrication for your eye. Your glands may either not produce enough tears altogether or produce tears that evaporate too quickly. When left untreated, dry eye can cause a wide variety of complications, ranging from double vision to serious infections. Fortunately, relief is available.

Dr. Allen Pusateri, an eye doctor in Land O’Lakes at the Florida Eye Center, has completed advanced training far beyond his residency to allow him to diagnose and treat common cornea and external ocular conditions, such as dry eye syndrome and chronic conjunctivitis. To help you get a better understanding of why dry eye occurs, continue reading to learn more about three main causes of dry eye.

Related: How Often Should I Get an Eye Exam?

Aging

By far, one of the most common reasons behind chronic dry eye is aging. In fact, dry eye occurs in approximately 5-30 percent of the general elderly population. This is part of why it’s so important for all seniors to have a routine eye examination.

Why is dry eye so prevalent in the elderly? The simple answer is that tear production declines with age. The more scientific answer is that one or more components of the lacrimal functional unit (tear producing glands and their neural connections) suffers significantly with aging. While this type of dry eye cannot be prevented, using artificial tears on a regular basis can provide additional lubrication to coat your eyes and relieve unnecessary dryness.

Related: 3 Ways Your Vision May Change with Age

Medication

Many prescription and nonprescription medications actively increase the risk of dry eye syndromes. This is because tears are composed of oil, water, and mucus, and certain medications are known to reduce mucus and oil production. Below, we’ve outlined just a few of the categories of medicine linked to dry eye syndrome:

  • Antihistamines: Antihistamines block your body’s response to allergy triggers and prevent common symptoms like itching and sneezing. Unfortunately, they also do a number on your eyes by reducing the watery tear film that keeps them moist.
  • Blood Pressure-Lowering Drugs: Beta-blockers, a common type of blood pressure medication, reduce the force of heart muscle contraction and slow your heartbeat. However, they’re also known to decrease sensitivity of the cornea, dampening the stimulus for tear glands to release tears.
  • Antidepressants: Antidepressants block the transmission of nerve impulses between nerve cells. This can be harmful when it also stops the signals that would normally tell your eyes to produce tears.

Environmental Conditions

Last but certainly not least, one of the most common causes behind chronic dry eye is environmental conditions. This includes everything from wind and low humidity to smoke and dry climates. Something as simple as the decreased atmospheric pressure in commercial airline cabins or air blowing in your eyes from an open car window can cause you to experience symptoms of dry eye. Cold climates and exposure to high winds has also been known to cause tears to evaporate too quickly, leading to chronic dryness, as well.

Above all else, be sure to use lubricating eye drops and sunglasses that wrap around your head to protect your eyes from wind whenever possible. When in doubt, be sure to consult with an optometrist regarding the best drops to use with your eyes and the best contact lens for your needs. Never attempt to instill drops in the eyes while operating a vehicle. For more information regarding dry eye treatment in Land O’Lakes, please reach out to an eye doctor from the Florida Eye Center.

To schedule a consultation with an eye doctor in Land O’Lakes, please request an appointment today.

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The content, views, and opinions communicated on this website do not represent the views of Florida Eye Center. Reliance on any information provided by this website is solely at your own risk. Although this website contains links to other medical websites, this is strictly for informational purposes. Florida Eye Center is not responsible nor do they approve of the content featured on any third party linked websites referenced on this website.

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