What Are the Leading Causes of Dry Eye?

As the name suggests, dry eyes is a condition wherein the tears produced are not enough to keep the eyes lubricated. Eye tissues, especially the cornea, are delicate and need constant protection. Tears, which form a clear, protective film over the entire eye, does this perfectly without compromising sight. They also serve the following purposes:

  • Keep the eyes lubricated, preventing itchiness and irritation
  • Wash away foreign particulates that accidentally enter the eye
  • Prevent injury (from friction)
  • Reduce the risk of eye infection (tears contain antibodies)

For these reasons, people who experience dry eyes must do something to address the issue. They might suffer from eye pain, injure their eyes, or, worse, have deteriorating eyesight otherwise.

To address dry eyes, you must first identify the cause. There are many possible reasons, including gland disorders.

Below are the leading causes of dry eyes:

1. Imbalances in tear production

Tears have three main components: water, oil, and mucus. Water keeps the eye’s surface tissues hydrated, mucus enables tears to spread easily, and the oil lubricates the eyes, allowing us to blink or squint without issue. If the proportions are off, i.e., there’s too little water or mucus, the resulting tears would be of poor quality and won’t be able to serve its purpose properly.

2. Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD)

Sometimes the problem is not the production of tears’ components but how they are transported. The oil in tears, for example, is produced by the Meibomian glands in the eyelids. When these glands are blocked — a medical condition called Meibomian gland dysfunction or MGD — oil shortage occurs. As a result, tears evaporate more quickly, especially when the weather is dry. Other reasons include being in an air-conditioned room all day or doing activities like reading and using the computer for a long time. MGD is a functional or structural disorder. If you suspect that you have this condition, you should seek MGD treatment immediately.

3. Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca

The third most common cause of dry eyes is inadequate tear production. This medical condition, called keratoconjunctivitis sicca, can happen for several reasons:

  • Pre-existing medical conditions - Some illnesses like diabetes, thyroid disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and Sjögren syndrome have side effects that include reduced tear production. Keratoconjunctivitis can also be an isolated condition in some postmenopausal women.
  • Prescription medicine - Drugs like antihistamines, cold medicine, high blood pressure treatments, and birth control can also have side-effects that include dry eyes.
  • Aging - It’s a sad fact that our bodily functions will slow down as we grow old. Tear production naturally slows down as people age. This explains why many seniors complain of having itchy, dry eyes and develop habits like squinting, blinking rapidly, and rubbing their eyes.

4. Environmental factors

As previously mentioned, dry weather is a common cause for dry eyes (although people’s reactions vary). Air-conditioned rooms with low humidity is also a recipe for dry eyes.

Many of these causes are beyond your control, while the rest are hard to manage. For instance, you cannot just stop taking your prescription for arthritis because your eyes are hurting. If dry eyes are becoming a bigger problem by the day, you should consult eye specialists and get treatment.

Eye Surgeons of Indiana can conduct diagnostic eye check-ups and provide the treatment you need. Get in touch with us today.