What does it mean when your eyes are feeling tired or irritated? Are you in need of a short nap or are you really suffering from dry eye, a common eye disorder?
All about dry eye
Dry eye is a widespread condition, one that 16 million Americans live with. Although it may sound relatively benign, dry eye is associated with significant discomfort and even vision impairment. The condition can arise from any of a number of factors and even become chronic.
Dry eye disorder causes decreased tear production, lower tear quality, and increased tear evaporation resulting in an uncomfortable burning sensation in the eyes that can impact vision as well as quality of life. So if you’ve been experiencing symptoms of dry eye, do you need to see your eye doctor or can you just sleep it off?
Symptoms of dry eye
First, let’s start with the symptoms of dry eye. The most common types of this multifactorial disorder are aqueous deficiency dry eye and evaporative dry eye. You may have a combination of both these issues, and many symptoms of these conditions overlap.
- Watery eyes
- Burning, scratching, or irritation in the eyes
- Increased sensitivity to light
- Blurry vision
- Feeling that there’s something in your eye
- Difficulty driving at night
- Reduced contact lens wear
- Mucus in or near the eyes
- Eye fatigue
Why would I have dry eye?
Do any of the above symptoms apply to you? If so, you might be convinced that you’re suffering from dry eye disorder. Even if that’s the case, before diagnosing yourself, you should see if you fall into an at-risk category. Some risk factors for dry eye include:
- Wearing contact lenses. Do you wear contacts? Contact lenses can lead to all sorts of issues with tear production. For instance, they can absorb tears and even reduce the amount of oxygen that enters the eye.
- Having had refractive surgery. Have you had refractive surgery? LASIK and PRK are types of surgery that can improve eyesight, eliminating the need for glasses or contacts. However, patients consistently report experiencing dry eye after the procedure. Dry eye after refractive surgery is not usually permanent, although it can last for up to two years.
- More than 2 hours of screen time a day. Does your job require you to stare into a computer screen for 8 or 9 hours? Using digital devices can promote eye strain and cause dry eyes, most often due to lack of blinking. Recent studies have shown that our blinking reduces by up to 75% when we are in front of the screen!
- Taking certain medications. Prescription drugs like antidepressants and birth control pills can raise your risk for dry eye, as can blood pressure and anti-allergy medications.
Furthermore, women and people over the age of 50 are more likely to experience dry eye.
When should I see a doctor?
Occasional dry eyes are no cause for concern. With today’s stressful lifestyle, it’s only reasonable that the eyes would become stressed as well.
However, if your symptoms persist for more than a week or two, you should see your doctor. Untreated dry eye can lead to problems such as eye infection, corneal damage, or even reduced vision. That’s why early detection and treatment is crucial.