Dry eye is a condition that affects millions of Americans. It occurs when the eyes do not produce enough tears or when the tears are not of the right consistency to keep the eyes lubricated and healthy. This can lead to symptoms like redness, irritation, pain, and fatigue. In extreme cases, it can even lead to vision problems.
So, what increases the likelihood of getting dry eye? First, we look at the most common risk factors for developing the condition.
One of the most significant risk factors for dry eye is age. As we age, our bodies produce fewer tears. This is due to a decrease in tear-secreting glands and changes in the composition of our tears. People over 50 are, therefore, more likely to experience dry eye symptoms. While there is no cure for dry eye, several treatments can help alleviate the symptoms. For example, artificial tears and ointments can lubricate the eyes, and special contact lenses can reduce evaporation. In severe cases, advanced procedures such as OptiLight Lumenis and surgery may be necessary to repair damaged tear ducts.
Women are generally more prone to dry eye than men due to hormonal changes. Women may experience worse symptoms during pregnancy or when taking birth control pills. Certain medications, such as antihistamines, can also contribute to dry eye in women.
Smoking and alcohol consumption
Smoking and alcohol consumption are two additional risk factors for dry eye syndrome. Smoking increases inflammation and decreases tear production, while heavy drinking has been linked to decreased tear quality. It’s important for those who smoke or drink heavily to be aware of the potential risks and take steps to reduce their risk.
Certain medical conditions
Dry eye is also more common in people who suffer from certain health conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, lupus, thyroid disorders, and Sjögren’s syndrome. These conditions can cause inflammation that interferes with tear production. Some medications used to treat these conditions, such as antihistamines, decongestants, beta-blockers, antidepressants, and certain birth control pills, can also contribute to dry eye by reducing tear production.
Several environmental factors can contribute to dry eye, including wind, smoke, dry air during winter, long periods of staring at computer screens or other digital devices, and being in an airplane for extended periods. People who live in desert climates or at high altitudes are also more likely to experience dry eye because of the lack of moisture in the air.
Wearing contact lenses
Another factor that can increase the likelihood of developing dry eye is wearing contact lenses. This is because contacts can absorb tears and prevent them from reaching the cornea, the eye’s outermost layer. In addition, wearing contacts for long periods or overnight can increase the risk for dry eye syndrome because it gives your eyes less time to recover, thus producing fewer tears overall.
Although some people are more prone to experiencing dry eye, the risk factors are largely preventable or manageable with appropriate treatment. If you are at risk for dry eyes, it’s important to talk to your doctor about treatments that may help you find relief from your symptoms.