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What Causes Dry Eye:
The Dry Eye Center at Unger Eye Care in Troy, Illinois

The Factors That Can Cause Dry Eyes

Dry Eye Syndrome can be caused by many factors. These include age, genetics, environment, lifestyle, medications, and the overall medical health of your eyes. Regardless of which factor(s) contribute to your Dry Eye Syndrome, the result is a situation where your eyes are either not producing enough tears to keep your eyes lubricated, or the tears are not formulated with the correct balance of water, lipids, and mucous to maintain proper lubrication.

This results in the sore, gritty, and painful condition we call Dry Eye Syndrome. Sometimes, basic lifestyle and dietary changes can prevent and even alleviate the symptoms. 

Eye surgery, injury, and radiation therapy are the most common medical procedures that can result in dry eyes. If you have ever undergone any medical procedure on or near your eyes, received radiation therapy, or if you notice that your eyes are getting dryer, contact us. The Dry Eye Center at Unger Eye Care has advanced techniques and experience in diagnosing and treating Dry Eye Syndrome.

man with dry eye after surgery

Dry Eyes After Eye Surgery

Complications from certain medical procedures will very often result in Dry Eye Syndrome. This is especially true for eye surgery, whether due to an injury or medical condition, or elective surgery such as LASIK. Whenever parts of the eye are cut, it is very easy to damage the tear ducts or the meibomian glands —which are essential for producing the lipids (oils) in your tears.

Woman, illustrating radiation therapy

Dry Eyes After Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy or Orbital Radiotherapy very frequently results in Aqueous Deficient Dry Eye Syndrome, a form of dry eyes that results from a reduction in tear production. 

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Diabetes, Lupus Arthritis, Thyroid Disorders And Dry Eye Syndrome

Diabetes can lead to dry eyes because of nerve neuropathy. Essentially, the nerves that control the tear ducts stop functioning properly resulting in decreased tear production.

Lupus Arthritis is an autoimmune disease that can affect the nerves and prevent the tear ducts from producing sufficient tear volume.

The thyroid maintains the hormonal and metabolic balance throughout the body. Therefore, a diseased thyroid alters the metabolism of the entire body —and the eyes are no exception. Both overactive and underactive thyroid conditions can result in dry eyes.

An overactive thyroid disorder is often a result of Graves’ Disease. This autoimmune disease causes inflammation and swelling in the eyelids (amongst other places in the body) until the eye itself may begin to protrude. This swelling and possible protrusion of the eye reduces the body’s ability to blink effectively. In addition to Dry Eye Syndrome, this can result in endocrine orbitopathy, which includes severe dry eye symptoms such as double-vision, painful pressure, and severe inflammation. When the eye is protruding, severe drying of the cornea can occur.

woman with dry eyes

Medications That Cause Dry Eye

There are many medications out there that can cause dry eye. The causes range anywhere from a reduction in the functionality of the tear ducts to a decrease in the amount of water in the body. This includes:

  • Diuretics
  • Decongestants
  • Antihistamines
  • Anticholinergics
  • Antidepressants
  • Hormones
  • Hypertension medication
  • Dermatological agents
  • Lortab (acetaminophen and hydrocodone)
  • Ibuprofen (Advil)

Always let us know what medications you are taking, whether over-the-counter or prescription. This will help us better assess and treat your Dry Eye Syndrome.

Hormonal Changes That Result In Dry Eye

Sharp changes in your body’s hormone levels will often result in an inflammatory response which can result in dry, irritated eyes. Below are some common reasons why people undergo hormonal changes that often cause Dry Eye Syndrome. You don’t have to suffer from dry eyes in silence. Dr. Alice Unger, Dr. Thomas Unger and Dr. Drew Unger at The Dry Eye Center at Unger Eye Care will conduct a full assessment and develop a custom treatment plan that’s right for you.

Birth Control and Dry Eyes

Hormonal birth control alters the body’s hormone balance, particularly progesterone. Examples of contraceptives containing hormones include birth control pills, patches, vaginal rings, and certain types of IUDs.

These can cause similar hormonal changes as pregnancy and therefore, can also result in decreased tear production. Less tears means the greater the likelihood that Dry Eye will develop.

If you notice any symptoms such as dryness, itching, burning, or blurriness, you may have Dry Eyes. Fortunately, there are various methods of treating the condition that won’t interfere with your birth control regimen.

Pregnancy and Dry Eye

Just as with many changes that occur in pregnancy, vision changes during this time are usually temporary. You may experience blurred vision, itchiness, burning, or discomfort when wearing contact lenses. Sensitivity to light may begin to affect you as well.

This is quite common and is caused by the hormonal changes in your body. It is often experienced during the end of the first trimester, when the hormones are most active. These hormones can decrease the amount of natural moisture in the eye, leading to Dry Eye. The condition can last throughout the pregnancy, during postpartum recovery, and while the mother is breastfeeding.

Many pregnant women find that applying a warm cloth to their eyes for a few minutes can give them some relief. Others may be advised to use artificial tears during this time. Switching to eyeglasses can also relieve some of the discomfort caused by wearing contacts during the pregnancy and through the first few weeks of postpartum recovery.

Menopause and Dry Eye

Similar to pregnancy, menopausal women also experience changes in their hormones. When going through menopause, your body produces less progesterone, estrogen, and androgens. The latest research indicates that androgens directly affect the delicate balance of tear production. Fewer androgens means the body will produce fewer tears, resulting in Dry Eye. Since women already have less androgens than men, post-menopausal women are particularly susceptible to dry eyes.

The exact treatment for Dry Eye during the menopausal years is a matter of debate. While many eye care practitioners believe that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can alleviate Dry Eyes during menopause, others believe it may increase it. All agree that managing Dry Eye for women during menopause requires a customized treatment plan. Personal lifestyle, time spent outdoors, medication, and nutrition can all play a role in a woman’s health and can impact Dry Eyes.

woman with allergies and dry eyes

Seasonal Changes, Allergies, Environment, And Dry Eye

Anytime the seasons change— particularly spring, summer, and fall— there's a high amount of allergens in the air. The autoimmune response to these allergens often results in inflammation and dry eyes. Seasonal dry eyes causes a feeling of grittiness or itching in the eye which can be most uncomfortable, and producing fewer tears can potentially lead to infections or more serious problems.

Sunlight, Wind, Humidity, and Dry Eyes

Intense sunlight or direct sunlight can cause you to strain your eyes while simultaneously drying them out. This, of course, can lead to dry eye and other problems. High winds can cause a similar issues. The wind can pick up debris and other elements that will strain your eyes, and causes the tears to evaporate quicker so the tear ducts do not produce tears as fast as they should. This cascade effect can lead to dry eyes.

Dry climates tend to have high winds, a lot of sunlight, and little moisture in the air which can all cause a reduction in tear production.

Cold Weather and Dry Eyes

Cold weather usually means windy, harsh conditions outside—and the likelihood that you are spending most of your time indoors, exposed to heating systems on a regular basis. Ironically, it’s this constant exposure to dry, heated air in cold weather which causes inflamed, itchy eyes other symptoms associated with Dry Eye Syndrome.

Heat And Dry Eye

Hot temperatures, particularly when the humidity is very low (a dry environment), causes your tears to evaporate at a higher rate. This can result in dry, itchy eyes.

Altitude And Dry Eyes

As your altitude increases, the air becomes dryer. What’s more, higher altitude usually means more intense sunlight and wind speeds, which all cause your tears to evaporate at a faster than normal rate, thus potentially resulting in dry eyes. 

Living With Dry Eye in Troy,Illinois

Woman contemplating dry eye solutions
Reading, Writing and Dry Eye

While you read or perform any visual task like working on a computer or driving, you tend to blink less. On average, we should typically be blinking once every 3-5 Seconds. However, when looking at a computer monitor, for example, blinking goes down to about 1-2 times a minute. This causes dry eye because the act of blinking is what coats the eye with film from the tears. When engaged in continuous and middle-vision focusing, always remember the 20-20-20 rule: Take a break every 20 minutes to focus on something at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.

Computer/Blue Light and Dry Eye

The high energy blue-violet light emitted by modern LED devices is a growing cause of concern as it leads to eye strain, disrupted sleep patterns, and likely long-term damage. Blue light and the resulting eye strain can cause a reduction in tear production resulting in dry, irritated eyes. Take breaks from screen use every 20 minutes or so.

Contact Lenses and Dry Eye

Contact lens wearers often complain about dry eye. This can be exacerbated by improper contact lens hygiene or wearing the contacts too long without a break. For some people who already have an underlying dry eye condition, regular contact lenses are simply too uncomfortable and specialized contact lenses become required. At the , we can help fit you with the right contacts for you to avoid these symptoms.

Eye Infections and Dry Eye

Eye infections such as conjunctivitis (whether viral or bacterial) can cause significant irritation, infected debris and mucous which can all contribute to dry eyes. The symptoms will usually clear up once the infection does.

Meibomian Gland Dysfunction

Meibomian Gland Dysfunction or MGD accounts for the majority of cases of Dry Eye Syndrome. This condition occurs when an abnormality or blockage in your inner eyelids prevents the meibomian glands from producing the lipids that are essential for maintaining the optimal balance of tear composition. A shortage of these lipids leads the tears in your eyes to evaporate too quickly and results in dry eyes.  

Blepharitis

Blepharitis is an inflammation located at the base of the eyelashes, and the area becomes clogged and inflamed by infected debris called scurf. We can treat blepharitis, so contact us if you think you may be suffering from this eye condition.  

Diet, Omega 3, and Dry Eye

Omega 3 fatty acids are proven to prevent Dry Eye Syndrome from developing and can even treat mild cases. These fatty acids are essential for tear production and to ease stinging, irritation, and that scratchy feeling that can occur with dry eye. Omega-3 has anti-inflammatory properties so you’re also less likely to get infections on the surface of the eye or on your eyelids. If your diet is low in Omega 3, you should consider adding more fish to your diet or taking supplements as needed. We would be more than happy to guide you to the supplements that provide the best sourcing and bio-available Omega 3.

Stress and Dry Eye

Stress tends to adversely affect the body. Recent studies have shown that stress can even trigger dry eyes, especially if there is a preexisting factor such as a dry and windy environment, gender, hormonal fluctuations or age — all of which can contribute to the development of dry eyes. 

You Don’t Have To Suffer From Dry Eye Anymore!

Regardless of the factors or conditions causing your dry eye, there are usually viable treatment options available. If you are suffering from Dry Eye for any reason, book a Dry Eye Assessment at the in Troy, Illinois for effective treatment. Dr. Alice Unger, Dr. Thomas Unger and Dr. Drew Unger and our helpful and caring staff will be glad to set up an appointment for you. We will assess the exact nature of your Dry Eye and develop a custom treatment plan so you can get the relief you deserve. Why live with the dry eye a moment longer than you have to? Call us or Book Online today.

Woman suffering from dry eyes

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