What Causes Dry Eye Disease?

What Causes Dry Eye Disease?

What Causes Dry Eye Disease?

What Causes Dry Eye Disease?

Dry eye disease, also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca, is a prevalent condition that affects the eyes' ability to produce tears. This can result in dry, irritated, and uncomfortable eyes. Compared to men, women are more likely to have dry eye disease. The condition can be caused by age, certain medications, and underlying medical conditions.

Dry eyes can worsen if you wear contact lenses. Left untreated, dry eye disease can result in other eye conditions, such as corneal abrasions, due to poor lubrication of the eyes' surface. Symptoms of dry eye disease may mimic seasonal allergies, making it difficult to self-diagnose. If you are experiencing persistent symptoms, you must see an eye doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.


What Is Dry Eye Disease?

Dry eye disease is a condition in which the eyes do not produce enough tears or the tears produced are of poor quality, making it difficult to lubricate the eyes' surface. This can result in symptoms such as dryness, itching, burning, and redness. It's important to know how tears function to understand this condition better.


The Tear Film

Tears are a crucial part of maintaining the health and well-being of our eyes. They are produced by the glands in the eye structures and spread across the eye's surface each time we blink. The tear film comprises the aqueous, lipid, and mucin layers.

The meibomian glands produce the lipid layer, the topmost layer. It helps keep the tear film from evaporating quickly and keeps the eye's surface smooth. The lacrimal glands produce the aqueous layer, the middle layer. It helps keep the eye's surface clean by washing away debris.

The mucin layer, the bottommost layer, is made by the conjunctiva. This helps spread the aqueous layer across the eye's surface and allows the other layers to stick to the eyes. When the production of these layers is disrupted, dry eye disease can develop.


What Causes Dry Eye Disease

Dry eye disease can develop due to two main scenarios: inadequate and unstable tears.


Inadequate Tears

Also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca, this type of dry eye disease occurs when the eyes cannot produce enough tears, specifically the aqueous layer. This can happen due to aging, underlying medical conditions, side effects of certain medications, or nerve damage from laser surgery. In most cases, this type of dry eye disease requires ongoing treatment.


Unstable Tears

The stability of tears can be affected when the lipid layer is insufficient or missing. Without this layer, the tear film evaporates too quickly. This can happen due to blockages in the meibomian glands caused by thick oil or impurities. Blepharitis, low blink rate, eyelid issues, eye allergies, wind or dry air, and vitamin A deficiency can cause unstable tears.


Symptoms of Dry Eye Disease

Dry eye disease can cause various symptoms affecting the eyes' comfort and vision. These symptoms include:


  • A scratchy, burning, or stinging sensation in the eye

  • Stringy discharge from the eye

  • Increased sensitivity to light

  • Redness in the eye

  • A gritty feeling in the eye

  • Watery eyes due to eye irritation

  • Eye fatigue or blurry vision

These symptoms may vary in severity and duration and may not always be present.

For more on what causes dry eye disease, visit Dry Eye Center of Alabama and Family Eye Care at our office in Homewood, Alabama. Call (205) 490-2322 to book an appointment today.

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