Are Dry Eyes a Serious Problem?

by | Sep 1, 2022 | Eye Health | 0 comments

Do you suffer from persistent issues with dry eyes? It’s probably time to pay a visit to your eye doctor. In addition to being annoying and even painful, dryness in the eyes can be a sign that you have an underlying condition that needs to be resolved. When functioning normally, your eyes should produce enough fluid to keep your eyes lubricated. The protective moisture film keeps your eyes clear of harmful bacteria. It also keeps out particles and dust. When these processes are disrupted by dry eyes (also referred to as dry eye disease) you may begin to experience challenges. Let’s look a little deeper at how dry eyes can impact your vision.

What Are Some Common Dry Eye Symptoms?

The symptoms of dry eyes are not always painful or severe. Sometimes they may only present as a persistent itching or redness. What does dry eye feel like? You may have dry eyes if you have noticed the following symptoms for a period of more than a few days:

  • Struggling to wear contact lenses
  • Redness
  • Itching or burning
  • A “gritty” or “sandy” feeling in the eyes
  • Feeling as if your eyes are tired
  • Light sensitivity
  • Worsening night vision
  • Discharge

If you have noticed these symptoms occurring over an extended period, you may want to schedule an appointment with your eye doctor for an exam.

What Are the Causes of Dry Eyes?

Chronic dry eye can be caused by several different factors. The Mayo Clinic separates the causes of dry eyes into two categories: decreased tear production and increased tear evaporation.

Poor Production: Your Eyes Do Not Produce Enough Tears

The overarching reasoning of this cause is pretty clear. You cannot cry tears you don’t have and your body cannot keep your eyes moist and protected without adequate tear production. The causes of decreased tear production vary. Medication is one of the most common causes. Antihistamines, ADHD medication, birth control, and other medications can cause your tear production to drop.

Other factors that are more difficult to manage are age and hereditary conditions. These factors cannot be resolved with a prescription update. Eye diseases, vitamin deficiencies, eye injury, and eye surgery (such as laser eye surgery) can also contribute to dry eyes.

Evaporation: Your Eyes Lose Their Necessary Moisture Too Fast

Evaporation is often an environmental issue. Whereas poor production can have a variety of underlying physical factors, evaporation is largely a result of exterior factors. Evaporation occurs when moisture is drawn from the surface of the eye too quickly for the eye to benefit.

Exterior causes can include hot or dry air, wind, smoke, dust, and arid environments, like rooms with dehumidifiers or desert regions. You may also experience this issue if you are exposed to an allergen that affects your eyes. Even your eye drops or contact solution could be a culprit. One of the largest contributors to dry eye that many eye doctors see today is prolonged computer or phone use. Zoning out on content may slow your blinking down and increase evaporation.

Can Dry Eye Affect Your Vision?

The reason why your eye doctor may be concerned about chronic dry eye is that it can affect your vision. The most critical problem that can occur when a person is suffering from persistent dry eye is the increased chance of infection. The lubrication your eye produces (or should be producing) contains antimicrobial components that fight back against the bacteria that can cause an infection.

Another negative side effect of dry eye is blurred vision. Have you ever tried to clean a windshield with very little washer fluid or only a few droplets of water? It typically blends with any material on the windshield and is then smeared around. As you’ve likely experienced in that moment, visibility is hardly optimal. When your eyes become too dry, your eyelid acts as the “windshield wiper” dragging bacteria and debris across the dry surface of your eye. Suddenly you have a case of outside irritants + dry eyes = blurry vision.

Dry eye also increases the chance that your eye will be injured or damaged. Remember the windshield analogy? The difference between the surface of your eye and the surface of a windshield is that the latter is designed to take a bit of a beating. The surface of your eye? Not so much.

Your eyelid persistently dragging across the dry surface of your eye can begin to cause scrapes and tiny cuts that damage your vision. These cuts also make great infection vectors. Persistent injuries can rapidly devolve into the need for more serious treatment. You might be wondering, can dry eyes cause blindness? Left untreated, other factors caused by dry eye can contribute to severe damage to your vision. That is why it’s so important to see an eye doctor if you are suffering from dry eyes, severe or otherwise.

Can Chronic Dry Eye Be Treated?

The positive news is that many cases of dry eye can be treated before they get to such grim results. Once your eye doctor has determined the underlying cause of your chronic dry eye, they can develop a treatment plan that works for you.

For serious cases of dry eye, your eye doctor may recommend prescription eye drops. Prescription eye drops are developed to improve the conditions leading to dry eye by increasing tear production. In some cases, however, you may only need an over-the-counter bottle of artificial tears. Even OTC eye drops have formulas made to help dry eyes, although they won’t have the same impact as prescribed drops. For the most problematic cases, surgical intervention may be necessary. Surgery is not very common, however.

If you have experienced issues with dry eyes, blurred vision, itchy or painful eyes or other discomforts, call us today to schedule an eye exam in our Pueblo office. Our experienced staff will be happy to help you with all of your eye care needs.