Seven Potential Risk Factors for Dry Eye Disease
Dry eye syndrome is a common condition that chronically affects millions of people around the world. Dry eyes occur when the lachrymal glands are unable to produce enough tears—or more commonly, when the tear quality is not adequate enough causing the tears evaporate too quickly. Dry eye symptoms can range from mild eye discomfort to severe pain, depending on the case. While many people will experience dry eyes from time to time—such as if they spend an extended period staring at a computer screen—some individuals experience consistent, chronic dry eyes. These people can be thought of as having “dry eye syndrome” or “dry eye disease.” Below, we will explore some of the common risk factors for chronic dry eyes.
- Age: Age is one of the most common risk factors for patients who develop chronic dry eye syndrome. As you age, your tear production capabilities and tear quality diminish, which make dry eyes more common. If you are over the age of 50, you are at a higher risk of chronic dry eyes.
- Sex: In general, lack of proper tear production and eye lubrication are problems that are more common in women. In particular, women who are going through hormonal changes or fluctuations—whether caused by pregnancy, birth control contraceptives or menopause—are more likely to experience dry eyes.
- Diet: Vitamin A is essential for eye health. A healthy intake of vitamin A helps your body produce an adequate “mucin layer” for your eyes or the innermost layer of tear film. Losing the mucin layer, or having a less healthy mucin layer, affects the overall lubrication and protection of your eyes, which can, in turn, leave the eyes feeling dry. Omega-3 fatty acids can also play an essential role in preventing dry eye syndrome. You’ll find vitamin A in liver, fish, butter, cheese, eggs, carrots, and broccoli. You’ll find omega-3 fatty acids in fish and seafood or nuts and seeds but sometimes additional supplementation with an omega-3 formulation is recommended.
- Smoking: Tobacco smoke causes significant irritation to the eyes, even for non-smokers who encounter it in the form of secondhand smoke. Those who are regularly exposed to tobacco smoke have a much higher likelihood of suffering from chronic dry eye syndrome. If you already suffer from dry eyes, smoking can make it even worse.
- Environmental factors: Certain environmental factors can cause or exacerbate problems with dry eyes. Living in a dry, dusty, or windy climate might mean you are more likely to struggle with chronic dry eyes. You might also regularly experience dry eyes if you participate in an activity that disrupts the moisture levels in your eyes. For instance, cyclists often complain of dry eyes because the headwind they create while biking at high speeds causes tears to evaporate more quickly.
- Certain medical conditions: Some medical conditions will leave you at higher risk of developing chronic dry eye problems. Conditions linked to dry eye disease include diabetes, rosacea, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome, disorders of the thyroid, and more.
- Drugs or medications: Dry eyes can be caused or exacerbated by certain drugs or medicines. We’ve already mentioned that the hormonal changes caused by oral contraceptives can affect tear production. Antihistamines, blood pressure medications, and antidepressants can also contribute to problems with dry eyes.
At Miami Contact Lens Institute, we offer non-surgical methods for treating dry eye disease. Our services include thermal pulsation and meibomian gland evacuation, eyelid hygiene and prescription eye drops and other treatments. Scleral contact lenses can do wonders to keep your eyes hydrated, lubricated, and protected, so that you can get back to living more comfortably—and with better vision and overall eye health! Contact us today to learn more about us or to schedule an appointment.