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The eyes are constantly lubricated by the tears formed by the body. These tears also perform other functions like keeping the moisture content of the eye at the correct level and protecting the eye from infections through the presence of antibodies in their composition. A chronic dry eye condition can be extremely disconcerting to the patient, while also having the potential to cause some serious and long lasting damage. The basic reason why people suffer from dry eyes is when the tears formed by the body evaporate too quickly or are just not formed in large enough volumes.
This can be caused due to a number of reasons ranging from being a side effect to some prescription medication or an indication of a deeper underlying syndrome.
Causes Of Chronic Dry Eye
Let's take a look at the most common causes of chronically dry eyes.
- Aging: The function of the tear producing Lacrimal glands undergoes an age associated decrease causing the dry eye syndrome to be much more common in older individuals. It is also seen in a higher percentage of post menopausal women.
- Side effect of Medication: Medication that affects the secretion of certain enzymes and hormones like H2 blockers, contraceptive pills can cause a reduction in the tear formation. Other medicines known to cause dry eyes include anti hypertensive drugs, antidepressants and drugs used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.
- Autoimmune diseases: Dry eyes are found as part of the symptoms associated with autoimmune diseases like Sjogren Syndrome, Arthritis and Lupus. It is not yet known with certainty why some people or even races are more prone to developing auto immune diseases with possible reasons being genetic or the presence of an environmental trigger or even a combination of the two.
- Environmental causes: Our eyes dry out faster in a windy, dry climate. People who wear their contact lenses for too long are also more likely to develop dry eyes, while being inside air conditioned and dry climates like the ones found in airplanes can also cause this condition.
- Tear instability: Our tears are composed of three components produced by three different glands. The major component in the watery part formed by the Lacrimal glands. The others consist of an oily component (Meibomian glands) and the mucus content (Globular cells).
Any disruption between the proper ratio and balance of these components will lead to the tears being unable to perform their desired function and instead be evaporated much sooner than normal.
Symptoms Of Dry eyes
- Constant irritation and an itchy feeling in the eyes
- Increased sensitivity to light
- Watery eyes ( caused by the overstimulation of the lacrimal duct in response to dryness)
Dry Eyes: Diagnosis
While in most cases the diagnosis for dry eyes is made on the basis of clinical observation and the patients history, sometimes the doctor may want to physically measure the amount of tears being produced by your body. One common method used is by the Shirmer method involving filter paper being placed under the lower eyelid.