What Causes My Dry Eyes?
There are numerous causes and risk factors that contribute to the development of dry eye syndrome.
Dry Eye Syndrome is a chronic eye condition that is characterized by dry eyes and other symptoms including:
- Itchy eyes
- A gritty sensation
- The sensation of a foreign body in the eye
- Crusty eyelids
- Blurred vision
Your tears comfort your eyes in many ways. Water moisturizes, an outer layer of oils lubricates and prevents evaporation, and proteins help protect against infection. Dry eye strikes when your eyes can’t produce enough tears for lubrication or the moisture in your tears evaporates too quickly.
What is Meibomian Gland Disorder?
In 80% of cases, Dry Eye Syndrome is caused by some problem with the meibomian glands, which produce the lipids (oils) essential for proper eye lubrication and for maintaining the appropriate breakup time (evaporation rate) of tears. The glands can get blocked or even atrophy by infection, environmental factors, and lifestyle.
Dry Eye is a very common condition which we treat in our practice. Some recent research by Harris Interactive indicates that about 70% of people with dry eye don’t ever see an eye care professional, despite the fact that nearly half of all Americans suffer from dry eye symptoms to some extent on a regular basis. This is unfortunate as most patients stand to benefit immensely from appropriate treatment for dry eyes. At our Lakeville eye clinic, we develop a custom treatment plan for you, tailored to treat the specific causes of your dry eyes.
Dry Eye Syndrome has probably always existed, especially in the presence of environmental factors such as dust, cold, dryness, and, pollution. However, it seems to been getting more common and more severe, particularly over the last decade.
One likely reason is the explosion in the use of digital devices. More and more, we spend many hours of the day continually looking at computers, smartphones, and digital televisions. This makes us stare for long periods of time while blinking much less than normal. Infrequent blinking, in turn, causes our meibomian glands to be blocked and even atrophy, resulting in serious and chronic dry eye syndrome.
The widespread use of contact lenses is likely also a contributing factor. Long days of use, combined with improper care and cleaning irritates the eyes and contributes to dryness and discomfort.
Various medications, becoming more widespread, also have side effects including dry eyes. Lastly, age is the most common contributor to developing dry eyes. As we live longer and longer, the rates of dry eyes are bound to increase.
At Lakeville Family Eye Care, we use the latest technology to test the makeup of your tears. This includes:
- how quickly tears break down and evaporate
- The chemical and pH balance of tears
- the lipid (oil) to water ratio
- and more.
The technology we employ at our Lakeville Dry Eye Clinic includes:
- Visual examinations
- Fluorescein dye
Proper eye lubrication and comfort requires tears that have the right balance between water, salts, and lipids―the oils produced by your meibomian glands. TearLab is a special device used to test that balance. In most cases, Meibomian Gland Disorder is the chief culprit for dry eyes. This occurs when there is some kind of blockage, infection, or atrophying of the glands which disrupt the ability of those lipids to be present. A lack of these lipids causes your tears to evaporate faster than they should. The TearLab tests the osmolarity of your tears.
A strong imbalance between the osmolarity of one eye vs. the other is a strong indication that someone has dry eye disease.
Another tool used by our dry eyes experts is InflammaDry, which tests the level of inflammation in your eyes. This dry eyes diagnostic tool tests whether or not a patient has elevated levels of something called MMP-9 in their tears from the inner lining of the lower eyelid. MMP-9 is a protein which indicates inflammation, which is fairly common for anyone suffering from dry eyes.
Our Lakeville eye doctor will typically prescribe steroids in order to get the eye inflammation under control.
Fluorescein Dye Test
Dr. Mattson, or another of our Lakeville dry eye doctors, will also test your tear-breakup time. Essentially, if the makeup of your tears is off, they will sometimes simply evaporate before they can work effectively. Our eye doctors test your tear breakup time, using a fluorescein orange dye ― which is also useful in spotting other corneal diseases, conditions, or foreign bodies. Our optometrist will gently touch your eye with a tiny amount of special blotting paper. As you blink, the dye will spread and painlessly coat the tear film which covers the cornea. Using a blue light to contrast with the orange dye, the eye doctor is able to see problems revealed in green.
Does Staring at a Screen Cause Dry Eye?
Continuous staring at a fixed object, such as a phone or computer screen, usually results in a decreased blink rate. The lack of blinking actually causes the eyes not to replenish the tears often enough. The meibomian glands, therefore, can become blocked or even atrophy and die.
Does Drinking More Water Help with Dry Eye?
The main component of tears is water. Most of us don’t drink enough water. If you are dehydrated or not drinking enough, then you may not produce enough tears to keep your eyes moist. Snapple, Coke and other caffeinated drinks like coffee and tea may feel like they quench your thirst, but they actually dehydrate the body. Your body needs water to prevent dry eyes symptoms.
Antihistamines and Dry Eyes
Certain medications are known to contribute to dry eyes. In particular, anti-histamines (allergy) medication. Prolonged use of antihistamines will often lead to dry eye symptoms developing.
Beta-Blockers and Dry Eyes
Typically prescribed for controlling blood pressure, beta-blockers are proven to cause or exacerbate existing dry eye symptoms. If you are taking beta-blockers and experiencing symptoms, let us know! Your Lakeville dry eye doctors can help.
A recent study about the correlation between migraines and dry eyes has interesting results. Comparing migraine sufferers to people without headaches. The results showed a much greater prevalence of dry eye in the migraine group than in those without headaches. So, researchers are speculating that some migraines may worsen when dry eye symptoms are present. It has been recently hypothesized that when people report on headaches these could actually be caused by dry eyes, amongst other factors. However, it is unclear whether one causes the other, or whether computer use is a contributing cause of both headaches and dry eyes.
As we age, we experience hormonal changes. These changes are known to cause or contribute to dry eyes. While this is true of both men and women, it seems that women over 50 are particularly more prone to developing dry eye symptoms.
The following environmental factors are known to play a huge role in causing or contributing to dry eyes:
- Cold-climate and central heating
- Dry climate
- Sandy or dusty conditions
Various diseases contribute to dry eyes. Autoimmune diseases are a known factor. Rheumatoid arthritis, and Sjogren’s syndrome – a common symptom that rheumatologists treat can also contribute to dry eyes. Diabetics or those with Glaucoma that requires medication are more likely to have dry eye syndrome.
One of the main reasons people discontinue contact lens usage is due to dry eyes. The good news is there have been major improvements across all the brands with special contacts that are aimed at preventing dry eye symptoms.
Do You Live in Lakeville, Prior Lake, or Farmington and suffer From Dry Eyes?
Dr. Andrew Mattson is the founder of Lakeville Family Eye Care in Lakeville, Minnesota
Doctor Andrew Mattson is the owner and founder of the Lakeville Family Eye Care Dry Eye Treatment Center. His practice provides advanced treatment of Dry Eye Syndrome in his Lakeville eye clinic, in addition to primary eye care, advanced care, cataract and LASIK co-management, and advanced contact lens fittings.
After graduating from Apple Valley High School, Doctor Mattson earned his B.S. degree in Physics from the University of Minnesota – Duluth . He then performed three years of graduate school in Biochemistry at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities before obtaining his Doctorate in Optometry from the Illinois College of Optometry in the spring of 2001.
While in optometry school, Doctor Mattson was inducted into the Tomb & Key Optometric Honor Fraternity (based on character, leadership and success in optometric studies) and the Beta Sigma Kappa International Optometric Honor Society (based on academic excellence). In addition, he received the Robert C Morrow Scholarship (based on professional promise and academic achievement), and the Exceptional Tudor Award (based on his efforts as a tutor and/or teaching assistant in the areas of sensory, color vision, binocular vision, biochemistry, and ophthalmic optics). Doctor Mattson also participated in vision screenings for inner city school children and vision awareness programs.
Doctor Mattson obtained clinical honors at the Illinois Eye Institute in low vision. He achieved honors during his externships in the treatment of Ocular Disease at the Wolfe Clinic ( Ames, IA ), Pediatric & Binocular Vision Disorders at the Black Hills Regional Eye Institute ( Rapid City, SD ), and in Primary Care at the VA Medical center (White River Junction, VT).
Doctor Mattson and his wife Chialing have enjoyed Madelynn (born 2005) and their newest addition Leo (born 2007). Dr. Mattson plays on a local fastpitch team. Doctor Mattson is excited to be back to Lakeville and the South Metro Area as his great great grandfather originally settled in Lonsdale, MN from what is now the Czech Republic. He still has family in the area to this day and has a particular penchant for Kolachke.
When the body is unable to produce an adequate amount of tears, the eyes can begin to dry out, leading to itchy, red, and painful eyes.
Dry eyes can cause significant discomfort during the long winters and relief can seriously improve your quality of life.