Chronic Dry Eye Symptoms and Causes | Eye Love Cares
Chronic dry eye – which occurs when the eyes are not adequately lubricated – can be a very annoying condition, and it is becoming increasingly common in the United States. There are many different causes of chronic dry eye, and the symptoms, treatment and prevention methods are different depending on the exact cause.
Fortunately, chronic dry eye is fairly easy to treat when proper care is administered, and future attacks of dry eye can be prevented with at home care and preventive techniques when in high risk situations. By understanding exactly why dry eye occurs, the various chronic dry eye symptoms and signs to be mindful of as well as when it is appropriate to visit the doctor – or optometrist – for chronic dry eye, you can prevent it from having a major effect on your daily life, regardless of how at risk you may be.
Related: Dry Eye Syndrome
Additionally, you will learn exactly how a doctor can diagnose and treat chronic dry eye in the event it does occur. The exact chronic dry eye treatment method depends upon the cause of the chronic dry eye in the first place, but most instances of chronic dry eye are fairly easy to treat with medical assistance.
Be sure to gain a full understanding of what exactly chronic dry eye is, what causes chronic dry eye, the most common signs and symptoms of chronic dry eye and when to seek medical assistance for chronic dry eye. In order to prevent chronic dry eye from occurring in the first place, consider using some at-home remedies to keep eyes lubricated and clean – which are discussed in this article.
Chronic Dry Eye Symptoms
It can be very helpful to have a full understanding of the most common chronic dry eye symptoms in order to seek appropriate care once it occurs and to prevent the condition from worsening. However, identifying the chronic dry eye symptoms can be difficult, as the exact symptoms differ based on the exact cause. Nonetheless, there are certain chronic dry eye symptoms that are the same regardless of what caused them.
In most instances, chronic dry eye has a very slow onset, and the symptoms may not even be noticeable at first. However, once the symptoms of chronic dry eye progress, they can quickly become problematic and much harder to treat.
The following are the most common chronic dry eye symptoms that typically occur regardless of the exact cause:
- Red, dry eyes
- Burning eyes
- Sore eyes
- Eye irritation
- Inability to focus
- Blurred or double vision
- Eye fatigue
- Watery eyes
There are multiple chronic dry eye symptoms, and the absence of one or more of the symptoms does not suggest that chronic dry eye is not the issue. Instead, if two or more of the above symptoms exist simultaneously, then there is a good chance chronic dry eye is the issue.
The most common symptoms of chronic dry eye are red eyes that look and feel dry. When eyes are dry, they often feel itchy and may cause one to rub their eyes, or at least want to rub their eyes, an excessive amount. Additionally, burning eyes and sore eyes are extremely common when chronic dry eye exists. When eyes are not properly lubricated, it can cause an extreme discomfort, which feels as if the eyes are burning, and the feeling can lead to a sore feeling once the condition becomes chronic.
While not as common as dry, red eyes, or sore and burning eyes, eye irritation and an inability to focus on a task that requires the use of keen eyesight are very common chronic dry eye symptoms, especially when the cause is due to repetitive action and extreme focus, such as driving for long periods of time each day or working at a computer for hours each day. Eye irritation and an inability to focus can have a very slow onset. At first, it may only lead to a need to take more frequent breaks. As it progresses, however, it can cause one to not be nearly as productive while at work or able to focus well while driving.
In the event chronic dry eye goes untreated for too long, it can lead to eye fatigue, which is where an individual feels mentally tired, although they may have received plenty of rest and are not able to sleep. In some instances, chronic dry eye can cause watery eyes. While it may seem contradictory, and many may not believe chronic dry eye to be the issue when watery eyes occur, it is not unusual for individuals to produce excess tears in response to dry eyes, especially when working in very dry environments that evaporate the tears fairly quickly.
Chronic Dry Eye Causes
In order to understand why chronic dry eye occurs, it is important to have a general understanding as to how the eyes are able to stay lubricated in the first place. The secret to eyes staying lubricated are tears, which are a mixture of water, fatty oils and mucus. Tears serve to protect our eyes from infection and wash out any harmful particles that may invade our eyes. When the body fails to produce an adequate amount of tears – or the tears quickly evaporate in dry environments – it can cause complications.
Subsequently, the two most common ways chronic dry eye occurs is through either a decrease in tear production or tear evaporation. In some instances, chronic dry eye can occur when glands become blocked, which is generally caused by another eye condition.
Perhaps the main reason one may suffer from chronic dry eye is a decrease in tear production. There are various reasons why one may suffer from a decrease in tear production, such as:
- Getting older
- Medical conditions
- Various medications
- Problems with tear glands
- Eye surgery
Most who suffer from chronic dry eye as a result of a decrease in tear production usually do not have a lifestyle change – other than perhaps the development of a medical condition or a surgery – that suggest strongly that it is the cause of the chronic dry eye, which is not the case when tear evaporation is the cause of chronic dry eye.
For individuals who work sedentary jobs and use a computer for multiple hours each day, or for those who drive for extended amounts of time each day, there is a high likelihood that their lifestyle is the cause of their chronic dry eye. The main reasons one may suffer from a decrease in tear production include working in dry environments, concentrating without blinking often enough or taking frequent breaks, and problems with the eyelid.
When focusing on a task for a long time without a break, the eye can become stressed and eye strain can occur, which can lead to an increase in tear evaporation. However, tear evaporation most commonly occurs when the surrounding air is too dry. Subsequently, offices that do not use a humidifier or working in an outdoor area for extended amounts of time without eye protection are the most likely areas one may suffer from tear evaporation.
In some cases, chronic dry eye can develop when the meibomian glands are blocked or become clogged. In many instances, oil blockage can result from inflammation in the areas outside of the eye, including the glands and the area surrounding the eyelids and lashes. There are various different eye conditions that can cause gland blockage – and ultimately lead to chronic dry eye – including blepharitis and rosacea.
There are certain individuals and groups that are at higher risk of developing chronic dry eye, including individuals who are over the age of 45, women, and people who don’t wear proper eye protection when working in outdoor areas. It is important for those who are more at risk to take extra precaution.
Chronic Dry Eye Diagnosis
While most instances of chronic dry eye can be treated at home with home remedies and over-the-counter eye medication products (see prevention), it is important to visit an optometrist when any of the symptoms worsen, do not improve over a significant amount of time or if over-the-counter medication and at-home techniques do not work.
When visiting the optometrist, she or he is likely to go through a series of diagnostic procedures in order to determine whether or not chronic dry eye is causing the symptoms. In some cases – such as poor eyesight, blepharitis or eye strain – there may be another reason for the symptoms.
First and foremost, the doctor is likely to conduct a full eye examination in order to determine the full extent of your overall eye health. By doing so, they are able to get a clear indication as to what exactly is causing the chronic dry eye symptoms and how to best go about treating the symptoms as well as the underlying cause.
In addition to the eye examination, the doctor may order a Schirmer Test, which is a testing procedure done to measure the amount of tear production over a five-minute span of time. In the event the tear production is low, then it should give a clear indication that chronic dry eye is the condition causing the symptoms and treatment becomes much clearer as well. If the tear production is fine, then it may indicate that a part of the patient’s lifestyle is the issue.
Chronic Dry Eye Treatment
In the event the doctor diagnoses the patient with chronic dry eye, the chronic dry eye treatment is largely dependent upon the exact cause of the condition. The goal in chronic dry eye treatment is to treat the underlying cause, not just the symptoms.
Therefore, if the cause of the chronic dry eye is a lack of tear production, then treatment may be administered to either increase tear production or treat the main cause of the decrease in tear production. If the cause of the chronic dry eye is too much evaporation of the tears produced, there are likely to be precautionary methods put into place to prevent the evaporation from occurring at the areas where the tear evaporation is most likely to occur.
Related: Natural Remedies For Dry Eyes
There are various forms of chronic dry eye treatment, and more than one treatment method is likely to be utilized to deal with the underlying cause. The main methods of treatment for chronic dry eye include various medication types and certain medical procedures.
There are various medications that can help with chronic dry eye and can treat a wide variety of underlying chronic dry eye causes, including chronic dry eye caused by a lack of tear production or inflammation of the meibomian glands and other surrounding areas of the eye. In the event chronic dry eye is caused by a lack of tear production, there are certain medications, such as various forms of cholinergics, that can help increase tear production. If the chronic dry eye is caused by inflammation, there are certain chronic dry eye drops – such as the Oasis Lubricant Eye Drops or the TheraTears Eye Drops – that can soothe the symptoms of blepharitis and other eye inflammation conditions.
As mentioned previously, over-the-counter chronic dry eye drops and at-home remedies are sometimes enough to properly treat chronic dry eye. On more serious occasions, a medically prescribed eye drop may be necessary, such as medication to increase tear production. When neither chronic dry eye drops, at home care or lifestyle changes work, nor do medications to increase tear production, it may be necessary to have an eye procedure done by a medical professional to effectively treat the chronic dry eye.
The more common procedures that are utilized to treat more severe cases of chronic dry eye include unblocking the oil glands, heat therapy, eye massages and using specialty scleral contact lenses. In some cases, more invasive procedures – such as closing the tear ducts – may be necessary. The ultimate goal of a chronic dry eye procedure is to keep the eyes lubricated in order to eliminate the existence of the chronic dry eye symptoms.
In most instances, chronic dry eye improves within a few months with at-home care and over-the-counter eye drops. For more serious cases of chronic dry eyes, it may take many months for the symptoms – and the underlying cause – to fully be treated. Be patient! In the event chronic dry eyes last for more than a month without significant improvement, be sure to contact a doctor in order to receive additional treatment.
Chronic Dry Eye Prevention
The best way to deal with chronic dry eye is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. While doing so can at times be easier said than done – especially for those who are at higher risk – there are certain precautions and care techniques that can be put into place in order to significantly reduce the chance of chronic dry eye developing.
Here are the best practices to prevent chronic dry eye from developing:
- Use lubricating eye drops
- Keep eyes and eyelids clean
- Keep the eyes moisturized
- Wear protective eyewear
- Take frequent breaks
- Adjust screen(s) below eye level
Some of the prevention techniques can be ambiguous without further explanation and do not apply in every instance of chronic dry eye. Therefore, let’s go over each prevention method individually.
Use lubricating eye drops
Using eye drops can be very helpful in preventing chronic dry eye from occurring. Chronic dry eye occurs as the result of a lack of tears, regardless of whether it is due to a lack of tear production or too much tear evaporation. Using chronic dry eye drops, one can prevent it altogether by keeping their eyes lubricated whenever they become dry.
The best chronic dry eye drops on the market today are non-preserved, such as Retaine MGD by Ocusft. If you’re not into drops, you can also try the Hypochlorous Acid Eyelid Cleanser Spray, which is specifically designed to treat common chronic skin conditions that can subsequently lead to chronic dry eyes. The Hypochlorous Acid Eyelid Cleanser Spray by Eye Love is perfect for anyone who is at higher risk of developing chronic dry eye. In the same manner, the Occusoft Lubricant Eye Drops discussed are also very effective and trusted within the industry.
Keep eyes and eyelids clean
Another great way to significantly reduce the chance of developing chronic dry eye is to keep the eyes and eyelids clean with a tea tree oil face soap. The best way to clean your eyes and eyelids is to use the tea tree oil face soap, washing off any collection of oils and bacteria that may accumulate throughout the day. The tea tree oil face soap can not only clean the eyelids, but it can also provide soothing relief to the eyes after a long day. Make sure to rinse well afterward, because tea tree oil can sting the eyes. Also, follow up with the Heyedrate Lid and Lash Cleanser twice daily.
Keep the eyes moisturized
One of the most common causes of chronic dry eye is working, or living, in indoor environments that are too dry. In order to minimize the risk of developing chronic dry eye, try placing a humidifier in the indoor areas you spend the most amount of time, such as a bedroom, living room or office. Additionally, using Omega 3 Fish Oil for eye health works very well in keeping eyes moisturized as well, although this will generally take a few months to kick in.
Wear protective eyewear
People are more vulnerable to an increase in tear evaporation while outdoors than they are inside, especially on sunny days. Wearing protective eyewear – such as polarized sunglasses, protective contact lenses, etc. – while working or spending time outside can greatly reduce the chance of chronic dry eye developing.
Take frequent breaks
Another main cause of chronic dry eye is not taking frequent enough breaks while focusing on a task. It is important to give your eyes as well as your mind a break from assignments when working, and also remember to blink frequently to keep the eyes properly lubricated.
Adjust computer screen below eye level
Those who rely on the use of a computer for their work or spend a lot of time at a computer for any other reason should be mindful to keep the computer screen adjusted below eye level, which helps reduce the risk of developing digital eye strain that can also lead to chronic dry eye.
Chronic dry eye is mostly preventable, but if it occurs, there are several options for treatment. We hope this article has helped explain the condition as well as how to prevent and treat it.