Dry eyes - causes, symptoms & risks
We have all got to the end of a long day and found ourselves rubbing our eyes.
This might be through a lack of sleep, excess screen time or straining your eyes.
However, if you find that your eyes are dry, particularly on a regular basis, then you might need to look at some other contributing factors to work out why this might be happening and what you can do about it.
Understanding the cause of your dry eyes is the key to fixing them, as it is often a case that you need to change some of your lifestyle habits.
Subjecting your eyes to too much of anything will cause a reaction, and whilst it is nothing to cry about, your tears, or lack of them, are a big part of what causes dry eyes.
Your eyes may not make enough tears, the tears may be of poor quality or they may evaporate too quickly.
Moisture is usually spread across the cornea whenever you blink, but without enough tear, or the right tears, this does not happen, and your eyes start to feel dry.1
What causes dry eyes?
Dry, itchy eyes are a common problem which is usually not serious and easily fixed.
If you notice that you seem to have gritty eyes, a sensitivity to light or a soreness then you may have dry eyes.
The cause of dry eyes could be many things including your age and your lifestyle. If you are over 50, wear contact lenses, spend a lot of time in air conditioner or heated environments, smoke or take certain medications then you may be more susceptible to dry eyes.2
Whilst dry eyes might ruin your day, they can also be a problem at night. Many people find that they get dry eyes at night because they eyes have naturally dried out. It can also be due to a drop in body temperature which slows the metabolism. This leads to fewer nutrients reaching the eyes and therefore producing fewer tears.
You may also find that you suffer from particularly dry eyes at night if your eyes do not close completely when you are asleep.3
Symptoms of dry eyes
Eye dryness is characterised by an itching sensation that can sometimes feel as though you have something in your eyes.
Your eyes can become red, and despite the name, they may also become watery as your body fights the irritation.4
Your eyes can become tired and sensitive, and in the case of severe eye dryness, you may also experience some mucus build up.
How to help dry eyes
Keeping your eyes clean is key to any form of eye health, so that means protecting them in dusty environments, and making sure you wash them regularly.
You need a break when you have been working hard, and so do your eyes, so remember to step away from the screens and switch your contact lenses to glasses from time to time.
A humidifier can stop the air from getting too dry and is therefore an effective dry eye treatment and avoiding smoky or dusty atmospheres can also help.
If you find that a prescribed medicine might be causing the problem, then seek medical advice before making any changes.
A pharmacist may also be able to give you eye drops to help.
Handpicked content: Eat to keep your eyes healthy
Can dry eyes be harmful?
Dry eyes are not usually a serious problem and can be easily fixed.
However, if you find that typical dry eye remedies are still not working after a few weeks or there is any change to the shape of your eyelid, then it may indicate that there is a further problem, and you should speak to a GP who can refer you to an ophthalmologist if necessary.
You should seek urgent help if you experience any changes to your vision.
Your eyes are incredibly important, and whilst we can take them for granted, it is important to remember that they cannot always be repaired, and permanent damage can be devastating.
We have therefore put together Five easy ways to look after your eyes to make sure your optical health is as good as it possibly can be.
If you find that the problem of dry eyes persists then you should speak to a doctor or optician.