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Dry eye syndrome
Medically reviewed by Alastair Lockwood on 16 March 2021
What is dry eye syndrome?
Dry eye syndrome is a common eye condition that occurs when the eyes do not make enough tears (keratoconjunctivitis sicca), or the tears dry too quickly (evaporative tear loss), depriving the eyes of essential moisture and hydration. Eyes deprived of moisture, dry out and become red, swollen and irritated.
A common problem for lens wearers is that their contact lenses can create a feeling of dryness. Although contact lenses may not be the leading cause of the problem, they can make the condition more pronounced.
What causes dry eye syndrome?
There are various causes for dry eyes, most easily dealt with by making subtle changes to your eye care routine.
One common cause is a mismatch in the oily secretions in the meibomian gland and the mucus and tear secreting glands of the conjunctiva and lacrimal gland. If the eyelids are not properly apposed, every time we blink the oils from the eyelid margin don’t go onto the surface of the eye properly and collect around the eye lid margin. This can cause low grade inflammation as well as dry eye (blepharitis).
Behavioural causes include:
Wearing contact lenses for too long
Typically, lenses should not be worn for longer than 12 hours, unless they are extended wear, designed for long term use. Be aware that even extended wear lenses have a specific time frame and typically should not endure wear for longer than a week. Speak to your optician to determine whether or not your eyes can tolerate extended wear lenses, as they too can cause dry eye.
Not blinking enough
It is common that when you're looking at a screen, you forget to blink as you are focused on your task. The first method is to try and remember to blink more. However, most people will find this problematic. Another option is to keep a bottle of eye drops/artificial tears close to you and to wet your eyes as and when they begin to feel dry.
You could be harbouring an eye infection
Dry eyes can be an oncoming or present sign of an eye infection. Other signs to look out for are redness, itching, mucus, pimples or styes. If symptoms persist, always seek advice from your optician and get a proper diagnosis.
Allergies bought on by pollen and pet dander can cause the feeling of dryness and often irritate the eyes.
Your contact lenses are the wrong fit
If the base curve and diameter of a lens is the wrong size, it can cause discomfort on the eye. A well-fitted lens should cover the entire cornea and move slightly with each blink and shouldn't move a lot. If it does, this can cause dryness, itchiness and irritation.
Your contact lenses are low quality
It's essential that you buy your lenses from a reputable retailer who only sells high-quality, authentic products. At Feel Good Contacts, we only purchase authentic branded lenses.
While all contact lenses have a similar manufacturing process, the quality and composition will vary. The reason for this is that some unauthorised manufacturers don't follow safety regulations. Instead, they create cheaply made lenses using materials that aren't safe for the eyes.
Your contact lenses are too old
One of the advantages of daily contact lenses is that you pretty much start every day with a fresh pair of lenses, although that shouldn’t put you off monthly contact lenses. If cared for correctly, monthlies can still provide great comfort and visibility. The key is to make sure you clean and store them properly and discard them after a month.
You’re using a solution that is causing irritation
It could be that the storing or cleaning solution you’re using is causing you irritation. Try switching solutions for a while and seeing if it makes a difference.
What are the ways to prevent dry eye syndrome?
There are several measures you can take to prevent dry eye syndrome, such as implementing healthy lifestyle habits and avoiding certain risk factors that can cause dry eye. Such measures include:
Wrap-around sunglasses can help to prevent dry eye buy protecting your eyes from irritants such as wind and dust. Air conditioning and heating can also cause dry eye and thus its best to limit your exposure to them.
Avoiding cigarette smoke-cigarette smoke should be avoided at all cost as not only can it cause further irritation to dry eyes; smoking in the first place can cause dry eyes.
Limit your screen time-excessive screen use can limit your blinking and thus dry your eyes out. Whether you work at a computer or watch television frequently, remember to give your eyes a break.
Drink plenty of water- It is recommended you drink 6-8 glasses of water a day to stay perfectly hydrated. Constant hydration will ensure that the lubrication in your eyes doesn't deplete.
Use artificial tears-using artificial tears regularly is an excellent idea if you have chronic dry eye diseases and find that your eyes don't produce enough tears. Even if your eyes feel ok, it's a good idea to keep them well lubricated with an extra layer of tears.
Is it dangerous to have dry eyes?
Not only can having dry eyes cause discomfort and pain, but it can also permanently damage your vision if left untreated. You are likely to be more at risk of getting an eye infection without adequate tears. A lack of lubrication means that your eyes are more likely to suffer abrasion of the corneal surface, a corneal ulcer, eye inflammation and other problems affecting your vision.
Do dry eyes cause vision loss?
Corneal abrasions resulting from dry eye can then cause corneal ulcers if left untreated. A corneal ulcer can cause severe vision loss.
Can dry eye syndrome be cured?
Dry eye syndrome is not always wholly curable. Whether or not dry eye syndrome is curable depends on the cause and how severe it is. In most cases, however, it can be treated successfully reducing the symptoms and resulting in greater comfort.
Dry eye treatments
There are many dry eye treatments available to reduce the symptoms of dry eyes. However, we would recommend consulting with your eye care specialist before committing to a particular solution. An optometrist or ophthalmologist may request that you fill out a questionnaire before prescribing you a dry eye treatment.
Following the advice of your eye care specialist and being consisted is essential for treating dry eyes successfully. Here are some possible treatment options for dry eye:
Artificial tears or other lubricating drops are often recommended for mild cases of dry eyes caused by excessive screen use or reading.
You don't need a prescription to buy artificial tears. However, it's helpful to be aware of the various ingredients and viscosity of eye drops.
At Feel Good Contacts, we offer a range of eye drops and dry eye treatments depending on the severity of the condition. Milder drops can be used by those with minor cases of dry eye, while intensive drops can be used by those who need a higher level of moisture.
In addition to these, your eye care professional may prescribe you Restasis or Xiidra. These eye drops will not only add lubrication to the surface of your eye, but they also feature anti-inflammatory agents to help your eyes produce natural tears.
The effects of Restasis aren't immediate. These eye drops must be used for long periods before you notice the benefits.
Steroid eye drops can also manage the inflammation caused by dry eyes. They work in conjunction with Restasis or Xiidra. If used for long periods; however, they can have side effects, increasing the risk of cataracts and high eye pressure.
Also known as a tear duct plug or a lacrimal plug, a punctal plug is a small sterile device which is inserted into the tear duct to block it. It stops the drainage of liquid from the eye, allowing the tear film to remain on the surface of the eye and thus alleviating dry eye symptoms.
Warm compresses can also be used to soothe dry eyes. Our Thera-Pearl Eye Mask is an excellent choice as it contains small pearls which can retain heat for long periods. This treatment will work wonders to soothe dry eyes by providing a spa-like treatment from the comfort of your own home.
Meibomian gland expression
Meibomian Gland Dysfunction causes a significant number of dry eye symptoms. A lack of oil is secreted from meibomian glands causing this. This oil is vital for preventing the tear film from evaporating too quickly. Therefore, if these glands get clogged, this can lead to evaporative dry eye.
A meibomian gland expression may treat evaporative dry eye. It involves applying warm compresses to your eyelids before using forceps to remove the contents clogging up the meibomian glands.
Intense Pulsed Light
Intense pulsed light can treat ocular rosacea which can cause dry eye symptoms such as inflammation.
Nutritional supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids can reduce dry eye symptoms. These may be recommended by your eye care professional.
In addition to this, you can get omega-3s from fish such as salmon and herring or flaxseed oil.
Drinking plenty of water and staying hydrated can also relieve dry eye symptoms.
How do you permanently treat dry eyes?
Unless treated immediately, dry eyes can become chronic. To permanently treat dry eyes, you should seek treatment from your eye care professional right away. You should introduce healthy lifestyle habits into your day to day routine and avoid potential causes of dry eye such as spending an excessive amount of time in front of a computer screen.
Whether you have dry eye or are simply experiencing a few uncomfortable symptoms from time to time, rate your symptoms and find the best solution for them with our Dry Eyes Quiz.
Quick links:Do I need an eye test?
Eye tests for contact lenses
A guide to conjunctivitis