Eyes are considered as one of the best gifts bestowed upon us by mother nature. To be able to see clearly is nothing less than a boon in itself. But over time, human eyes can be subject to a number of complications due to various reasons. Dry eyes are one such complication that affects a significant number of people around the world. The condition is said to have the potential to cause many eye-related issues in the long run. Let’s understand more about dry eyes and what preventive measures to care for the condition. 

What do you mean by dry eyes?

Dry eye syndrome or dry eyes is a condition, wherein, an individual’s eyes are not able to produce enough quality tears. As leading ophthalmologists suggest, tears are necessary for maintaining eye health, especially of the front surface of the eyes. Tears help the eyes stay lubricated and nourished. Without adequate tears in either one or both eyes, an individual is bound to experience dry eyes. It is a common, and often, long-term problem that majorly occurs in older adults. 

Each time an individual blinks, tears spread across the front surface of the eye (cornea). Tears provide the eyes with the right amount of lubrication for their smooth functioning. They also reduce the risk of eye infection by washing away foreign particles in the eye and helps keep the surface of the eyes smooth and clear. 

When there is an excess secretion of tears in the eyes, tears flow into the small drainage ducts in the inner corners of the eyelids and drain into the back of the nose. But when the tear production and drainage are not properly balanced, the condition leads to dry eyes

What are its causes?

According to eminent eye specialists, dry eye syndrome occurs when there is a shortage of tear production in the eyes for a very long time. It also takes place when the eyes lack enough moisture. Dry eyes results can range from subtle, yet consistent irritation in the eyes to significant inflammation and even scarring of the front surface of the eye. Following are some of its triggers: 

  • Age – The majority of older adults i.e. aged above 65 years experience dry eye symptoms as it is a part of the natural aging process. 
  • Gender – More than men, women are prone to develop dry eyes syndrome due to hormonal changes, pregnancy, menopause, etc.
  • Environment – Factors like smoke, wind, dust, dry climate, etc. cause trigger evaporation leading to dry eye symptoms. 
  • Eye movements – Skipping regular blinking especially when working on the computer or using smartphones contributes to the drying of the eyes. 
  • Medicines & Drugs – Specific medicines such as antihistamines, decongestants, blood pressure medications, etc. can reduce tear production. 

Are there any preventive measures?

Fortunately, there are adequate effective treatment options and preventive measures to cure dry eyes. In most cases, doctors suggest using artificial tears and have minor lifestyle changes such as taking frequent breaks during computer usage for reducing dry eye symptoms. 

For severe dry eye conditions, doctors might also recommend prescription eye medications to treat dry eyes, by enabling the body to produce more tears and to decrease eye irritation and inflammation.

A few self-care preventive measures include: 

  • Regular blinking when reading or working on computer screens or smartphones for longer periods of time. 
  • Increasing air humidity both at work and at home.
  • Wearing big-size sunglasses outdoors to reduce exposure to dry winds and the sun.
  • Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water (around 8 – 10 glasses) each day.
  • Applying warm compresses to closed eyelids to soften the hardened meibum. 

How prevalent is dry eyes in India?

Researchers at LV Prasad Eye Institute (LVPEI), Hyderabad, conducted a study on dry-eye disease on 1.45 million patients. The study, published in 2019 in The Ocular Surface, an international medical journal, analyzed millions of data records using LVPEI’s eyeSmart Electronic Medical Records (EMR) system. 

Based on the current incidence rates, the study found that 45% or nearly half of India’s urban population is likely to be affected by dry eye disease by the year 2030. That’s around 275 million people in another decade. As far as rural India is considered, the specialists estimate to see 17 million new patients every year.

The LVPEI team of doctors suggests that dry eyes are soon amounting to become a serious health concern, even more than other life-threatening diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular complications. 

The Takeaway

Dry eyes syndrome is not just another eye problem, but a very serious health concern. Individuals experiencing signs of dry eyes should consult their ophthalmologist at the earliest to avoid further complications in the long run.