You can get dry eyes if you have too little tear fluid in your eyes, or if this fluid doesn’t work properly. This usually has several causes, such as:
- Malfunctioning sebaceous glands along the edges of your eyes. These sebaceous glands ensure sebum is produced, which makes the tear fluid greasier. This will keep the grease on your eyes more effectively.
- You don’t blink enough.
- Old age.
- Certain medications (antidepressants, antipsychotics, some blood pressure lowering medicines, certain eye drops and acetylsalicylic acid).
- Certain diseases, such as Sjogren’s syndrome, diabetes mellitus and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Wearing lenses.
- An infection along the edge of your eyelid.
- Prolonged exposure to drafts, smoke or air conditioning.
- Abnormalities on the underside of your eyelid.
If you have dry eyes, you may experience:
- Feeling like there’s sand in your eyes.
- Slime threads in your eyes.
- Blurry vision.
- Sticky and crusty eyelids.
- Tearing eyes.
- Red eyes.
- Burning eyes.
- Itchy eyes.
- Tired eyes.
- Pressure on your eyes.
Any of these symptoms can occur on their own, but also together. Dry eyes will also put you at a greater risk of developing an eye infection.
Dry eyes can’t always be prevented. Especially not if it’s caused by old age. There are a number of generally applicable pieces of advice you can follow to prevent or reduce dry eyes. For example, it’s important that you:
- Blink regularly. This will keep your eyes moist.
- Don’t rub your eyes or rub them as little as possible. Rubbing can cause irritated eyes.
- Make sure the air in your home doesn’t become too dry. This can especially happen if you have your heating on a lot and it’s set too high. You can prevent this by hanging a container with water on your radiator and topping this up regularly.
- Avoid smoky rooms.
- Don’t use air conditioning or air blowers. This will make the air in the room drier.
- Regularly alternate your contact lenses with glasses. Lenses can irritate your eyes.
- Thoroughly clean your eyelids with warm water if they’re infected.
- Wait to see if you experience dry eyes after laser treatment. This will usually go away after a year.
You won’t usually need to contact your GP if you’re struggling with dry eyes. Following the above advice will allow you to first try and resolve or improve the symptoms yourself. You should contact your GP in the following cases:
- Your symptoms worsen.
- You have followed the advice, but it hasn’t helped.
- Your eye is becoming infected.
- The edges of your eyelid have been infected for a long time.
- Your vision is blurry and blinking doesn’t help.
- Your eyelashes rub against your eye and/or the edge of your lower eyelid is turned in or out.
- You’re taking or using medicines which have dry eyes as a side effect.
- You can no longer tolerate light.
- You’re concerned about your symptoms or in doubt about the cause.
- You want to get advice about the use of eye ointments or artificial tears.