Dry, itchy eyes are often an annoyance. We rub and rub and rub as we work at our computers, try to enjoy an evening television program or sit outside watching our children play. The National Eye Institute states that dry eye “occurs when the eye does not produce tears properly, or when the tears are not of the correct consistency and evaporate too quickly.”
Allergies and eye strain can play a part in dry eye, but is there more?
Basic cause. The basic cause for dry eye is lack of tears or not enough water in your tears. Dry eye syndrome is also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS). There is more to a tear than a bit of water. Your tear contains electrolytes, fatty oils and proteins in addition to the water. This unique combination helps your eyes in several ways, such as to serve as protection from infections. If the combination of water, electrolytes, fatty oils and proteins in your tears is imbalanced, dry eye may result, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Medical conditions can be a factor. If you suffer from diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis, you may be more likely to experience dry eye. Thyroid disease can cause the eye to protrude forward, increasing the surface of the eyes, which can contribute to dry eye, states the National Eye Institute. Other medical conditions that may cause dry eye include lupus, Sjogren’s syndrome and scleroderma. Women may experience dry eye during pregnancy or after entering menopause.
Age and other conditions. Several factors can cause dry eye. In addition to medical conditions, the natural aging process can contribute to dry eye. It is not uncommon for people age 65 and older to experience it. Certain eyelid conditions, including eyelid surgery, can also cause dry eye as well. If you have had laser eye surgery, you may experience dry eye afterwards.
Medications and environmental factors. Always read the label of any medication you are taking for possible side effects. According to the American Optometric Association, medications such as antihistamines, decongestants, blood pressure medications and antidepressants can reduce the amount of tears your eyes create. Birth control pills, certain acne medications and even pain relievers such as ibuprofen can contribute to dry eye. Environmental factors including wind, lack of humidity, higher altitudes and exposure to smoke also can play a part in causing dry eye.