You may believe that tears are only for crying, but they are actually a necessary component of your overall eye health. Tears are your body’s way of relieving stress, sadness, grief, anxiety, and frustration. Moreover, healthy tears keep your eyes lubricated, remove external irritants, reduce stress hormones in your body, and release antibodies that ward off pathogens in your eyes.
However, when your tears fail you can develop a condition known as dry eye syndrome. While dry eye syndrome isn’t dangerous, it is a painful condition that causes irritation, reddening, light sensitivity, and blurred vision. Dry eye is usually caused by inadequate moisture in your tear glands and tear ducts. This can lead to inflammation and the production of excessive tears and mucus in your eyes. Here are some ways that you can develop dry eye syndrome, as well as the symptoms to look out for:
Dry Eye Causes
Healthy tears contain a robust combination of oil, water, and mucus. The oil in your tears prevents them from evaporating before they have properly lubricated your glands. This occurs when you cry, but also when chemicals irritate your eyes in order to flush them out. The mucus helps spread the tears evenly across your eyes, lubricating every part of the glands and the eyes themselves. An insufficiency in either oil, mucus, or water in tear production can cause dry eye syndrome.
The most likely culprit is age. In fact, dry eyes are largely considered a normal part of the aging process. It is widely estimated that dry eye syndrome affects nearly 5 million Americans aged 50 years or older. Dry eye syndrome is much more common in women after menopause. It disproportionately affects women at about twice the rate as men, and can be damaging for women who go through premature menopause.
Other contributing factors include taking certain medications, such as antihistamines, decongestants, antidepressants, and blood pressure regulators. Other medical conditions can also induce dry eye syndrome, particularly ones which attack your immune system. These include diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and thyroid disorders. Dry eye syndrome may also be triggered by environmental factors, such as excessive smoke exposure, wind or dry air, or even long-term contact lens use or laser eye surgery.
If you suspect that you or a loved one may be suffering from dry eye syndrome, consult with our trusted medical professionals today to begin treatment.