Dry Eye Syndrome: Causes & Treatment

closeup image of the eye

What Is Dry Eye Syndrome?

Do your eyes produce insufficient tears? Or you can’t sustain a natural layer of tears to cover your eyes? If you have these symptoms, then you have dry eye syndrome. When tears evaporate too quickly or the eyes produce too few tears, dry eyes will occur. It is found in humans and animals. Bacterial infections may develop in your eyes, or the surface of your eyes may become inflamed, resulting in corneal scarring. Dry eye syndrome can occur at any age, and even in healthy people. It is more common as people get older, because then they produce fewer tears. It also affects more women than it does men. It is also common in areas where vitamin A deficiency is caused by malnutrition.

What Causes Dry Eye Syndrome?

Tears are produced by the eyes all the time, not just when we yawn or feel sad. The tear film is a substance that covers healthy eyes at all times. It is made to stay in one place between blinks, keeping the eyes from drying out and allowing for good vision. The tear film can become unstable if the tear glands produce fewer tears. It can also easily break down, leaving dry spots on the eye’s surface. Let’s discuss some specific causes.

Reduced Tear Production

Tear development continues to decrease after the age of 40. When it falls below a certain level, the eyes become dry, irritated, and inflamed. Because of hormonal changes, this is more common in women, particularly after menopause.

Reduced tear production is also linked to:

  • Autoimmune conditions such as Sjogren’s syndrome, lupus, scleroderma, or rheumatoid arthritis
  • Radiation therapy
  • Diabetes
  • Vitamin A deficiency
  • Refractive eye operations such as LASIK raise the risk of dry eyes, but the effects are only temporary

Imbalance in the Tear Mixture

The tear film has three layers: oil, water, and mucus. Dry eye symptoms may be caused by issues with any of these. The top layer, oil, comes from the meibomian glands which contain lipids or fatty oils at the edges of the eyelids. The oil smoothens the surface of the tear and slows its evaporation. Tears will evaporate too easily if the oil levels are off.
Blepharitis, or inflammation along the edge of the eyelids, as well as rosacea and other skin conditions, may obstruct the meibomian glands, making dry eyes more likely. Water and salt make up the middle layer, which is the thickest. The layer is created by the lacrimal glands, also known as tears glands. They help remove debris and irritants from the eyes and cleanse them.

Instability in the film can be caused by problems with this sheet. The oil and mucus layers can come into contact with each other if the water layer is too thin, resulting in a stringy discharge, which is a telltale sign of dry eyes.
Mucus in the inner layer allows tears to spread uniformly around the eyes. Dry patches on the cornea, the front surface of the eye, may result from a malfunction.

Eyelid Problems, Environmental Factors, and Medications

presbyopiaOur eyelids spread a thin layer of tears over the surface of our eyes every time we blink. The average time a person blinks is five times per minute. Blinking motions that spread the tear film uniformly around the eyes may be affected by eyelid problems.
Ectropion, in which the eyelid turns outward, and entropion in which the eyelid turns inwards are two types of eyelid problems. Dry eyes may also be caused by blepharitis, or inflammation around the edge of the eyelids, as well as contact lenses.

These are some medications that may cause dry eyes:

  • Birth control pills
  • Antihistamines, decongestants, and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE)
  • Certain antidepressants
  • Inhibitors
  • Certain sleeping pills
  • Certain diuretics
  • Morphine and other opiate-based painkillers
  • Some acne drugs, especially isotretinoin-type medications

A dry atmosphere, heat, wind, and other forms of hot blowing air or dry air such as in an airplane cabin, are all climatic influences. Smoking, being at a high altitude, having chronic allergies, thyroid diseases, or other health conditions, and exposure to keratitis which occurs from sleeping with your eyes partially open, and wearing contact lenses are all possible risk factors.

When using a computer monitor, reading, or driving a car, the increased visual focus can cause the blinking rate to slow down, resulting in dry eyes. Shingles, Bell’s palsy, and HIV infection are all diseases that can cause dry eyes.

Symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome

  • A stinging or burning sensation in the eyes, as well as a feeling of dryness, soreness, and grittiness.
  • Stringy mucus in or around the eyes, like sand in the eyes
  • Eye sensitivity or wind redness
  • Trouble keeping the eyes open
  • Eye exhaustion after a short period of reading
  • Discomfort when wearing contact lenses
  • Tearing and double vision
  • Blurred vision, particularly towards the end of the day
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Eyes sticking together when waking up
  • The pain can be excruciating for certain people, resulting in anger, anxiety, and trouble coping in everyday life.

How to Treat Dry Eye Syndrome

A doctor will perform a physical examination and inquire about the patient’s symptoms, medical history, current medications, profession, and personal circumstances.
Tests will show the number of tears behind the eyelid, the condition of the tear film, and the rate of evaporation. Treatment aims to keep the eyes lubricated, but the method depends on the underlying cause. Here are three common ways to keep the eyes lubricated:

  • Maximizing natural tears
  • Making use of eye drops or artificial tears
  • Reducing tear drainage

Over-the-Counter (OTC) Artificial Tear/Eye Drop

Over-the-counter artificial tears or eye drops may help to slightly lubricate dry eyes. Eye drops without preservatives may be used as much as needed, however, they have a maximum safe dose of four times per day. It is not recommended to use eye drops to reduce redness.
Applying eye drops before engaging in activities that aggravate dry eye symptoms may be beneficial. Since ointments can cause vision blurring, so they are best used at night.


surgeryAn oculoplastic surgeon, who specializes in eyelid problems, may treat eyelid problems like an incomplete blink. Tear ducts, which drain tears, may be intentionally blocked, partially or entirely, in more extreme cases, to preserve tears. To block the tear ducts, it may be helpful to insert silicone plugs. This prolongs the duration of both natural and artificial tears on the eyes.

Home Remedies for Dry Eye Syndrome

Natural Tears

  • Put on wraparound sunglasses to keep the wind and hot air at bay
  • Consciously blink more often when using the device or watching TV
  • Avoid smoking and smoky areas
  • Maintain a mild room temperature by using a humidifier to help moisten the air

Other Ways to Treat Dry Eyes

  • Clean the eyelids with a piece of cotton wool dipped in warm water to prevent the eyes from being inflamed.
  • To extract mucus from the eyelid glands, gently massage the eyelid in a circular motion with a clean finger.

Complications of Dry Eye Syndrome

The majority of people with moderate eye syndrome have no long-term issues or complications, but extreme symptoms may cause inflammation, infection, and damage to the cornea’s surface. Ulceration or scarring may result from this injury which can impair the patient’s vision.

Now that you Know…

If your eyes are dry and you can’t see as clearly as you used to, see an eye doctor, ophthalmologist, or optometrist as soon as possible. Although it is uncomfortable, dry eye syndrome never causes permanent vision loss. However, it is best to treat dry eyes immediately. It becomes more difficult to handle if you leave it untreated for a long time.