What Dry Eyes Can be a Symptom Of

Tears coat your eyes to make them comfortable, clear your vision, and clean out debris. There are three parts that make up tears:

  • The inner part of the tear is a thin layer of clear mucous. This layer of mucous is developed by the cells in the conjunctiva. The mucous helps to spread the tears evenly over the entire eye.
  • The middle part of the tear is very similar to a very diluted saltwater like solution. The lacrimal glands under the upper eye lids and the accessory tear glands are responsible for producing the salt water like solution. This solution keeps the eyes moist, and flushes out any debris that may unintentionally get into the eye
  • The last part of the tear is a very small portion of oils. These oils are produced by oil glands in the eyelids. The main function of this oil is to reduce evaporation of the saltwater like solution underneath it.

Reasons for Dry Eyes

When you have dry eyes, there are two different problems that may be the cause:

  • There is a decrease in tear production.
  • There is an increase in the evaporation of the tears.

Aging is the number one cause for drying eyes. There is a decrease in the production and the quality of tears as we age, especially in women after menopause.

Most individuals do not realize that dry eyes may be an indication of another medical condition and may be a symptom of something more serious

Dry Eyes a Symptom of Other Medical Conditions

There are several medical conditions that can cause a decrease in tear production. A decrease in the production of tears by the tear glands may be a symptom of such conditions as auto immune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and Sjogren syndrome.

  • Decreased blinking, or the inability of the eyelids to close, results in the eyes drying out because the tears evaporate. Conditions such as a stroke, thyroid disorders, or Bell’s palsy can affect blinking and cause dry eye syndrome.
  • Steven’s Johnson syndrome and cicatricial pemphigoid cause the mucous cells in the conjunctiva to begin to overproduce, causing the tears to spread unevenly over the eye.
  • Rosacea is another medical condition that affects the oil glands of the eye, causing them to dysfunction. If the oil glands of the eye become closed off or the oil becomes thick, it prevents proper coverage of the water part of the tears and evaporation occurs.
  • Collagen vascular disease is a medical condition that is an autoimmune disorder that affects the tendons, bones and connective tissues of the body.

It has been discovered that an individual that has nutritional deficiencies in a diet that is low in vitamin A and low in omega -3 fatty acids will develop dry eyes. Vitamin A is found in liver, carrots and broccoli.  Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish, walnuts and vegetable oils

Blepharitis is an eye condition that causes inflammation of the eyelids, and affects the oil glands of the eye.

Treating & Managing Dry Eyes

There are many medications, both prescription and over the counter, that cause dry eye syndrome.

It is important to have your eyes checked every two years. If you suffer from dry eye syndrome, discuss it with your eye doctor as it may be an indication of something else going on.

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