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This diagram shows the working parts of the tear system

Dry Eyes: Causes and Treatments in Bellingham, WA

The healthy eye blinks throughout the day, lubricating itself with tears made of a mixture of water, oil, and mucus. Problems occur when something interferes with the production of tears, or the eyes dry faster than the lacrimal glands (tear glands) can keep up with.

Untreated, dry eyes are not just uncomfortable. Tears are the eyes' natural defense against scratches and infections. Healthy tears are the ticket to healthy eyes.

Low Oil Content

A leading cause of dry eyes is blocked meibomian glands: the glands that produce the oils in our tears. The eyes still produce a watery residue, but it quickly evaporates and leaves the surface dry. Use of contacts, androgen reducers, estrogen supplements, or retinoids such as acne medicine can increase the likelihood of this condition.

Clearing the meibomian glands requires a brief outpatient procedure. Warm compresses are first placed over the eyes to loosen the glands. The area is then cleared out with a meibomian gland expressor.

Decreased Tear Production

Your body may not be producing an adequate quantity of tears. Dry eye syndrome often increases with age as tear production slows. For women, this is especially true after menopause. Dry eyes are associated with other problems like Sjögren's syndrome, which can cause dry eyes along with dry mouth and arthritis. Certain conditions such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma, thyroid disorders, and Parkinson's disease may also decrease tear production.

Note: If you recently had laser eye surgery, you may experience dry eyes for up to 2 weeks. If symptoms persist, please visit us.

Tear Duct Inflammation

Often caused by foreign bodies trapped in the eye, the tear ducts can become inflamed, causing redness around the eyes as well as eye leakage. There are several choices of medications available to reduce inflammation.

Oral antibiotics are the easiest way to reverse an infection affecting the tear ducts, assuming the problem is caused by bacterial infection. In other cases, certain eye drops such as Restasis, Xiidra, and steroid eye drops are prescribed to handle the problem directly. Please consult an eye physician for the proper dosage.

Skin Disease

Rosacea, a skin condition causing a red pigment, is the most common skin disease to impact the eyes. The disease can be managed with regular treatment and lifestyle change to avoid stress on the skin. See more treatment details for ocular rosacea.

Environmental Factors

The eyes are sensitive to wind, smoke, and dry air. Even healthy eyes struggle to stay lubricated in intense conditions. Spending too much time in front of a computer screen can also cause the eyes to dry out. In most cases, off-the-shelf eye drops are enough to keep up with the daily toll. However, more effective treatment is available by prescription.

In less developed countries, dry eye due to a lack of vitamin A in the diet is not uncommon. Ointments with vitamin A can help dry eye caused by unusual conditions like Stevens-Johnson syndrome or pemphigoid.

Universal Treatments for Dry Eyes

Artificial tears are the simplest over-the-counter method of treating dry eyes. These eye drops come in two varieties: temporary relief and all-day relief. The first variety works quickly and can be used throughout the day to keep the eyes lubricated. The second variety lasts for hours by creating a viscous layer over the eye. All-day artificial tears may cause vision to blur, especially in the first 30 minutes after a dose.

If artificial tears are not enough, your eye doctor may prescribe a slow-release lubricant. This treatment is recommended for moderate to severe eye dryness and frequently causes blurred vision.

The other option improves the efficacy of your natural tears. Punctal plugs slow or prevent your eyes' natural irrigation, allowing tears to remain on the surface for longer. These plugs can be used in addition to artificial tears for well-rounded treatment.

Keep Your Eyes Healthy at Home

You can combat dry eyes with nutrition and eye care. Eat foods rich in omega-3 acids such as fish and flaxseed oil. Drink plenty of water, and protect your eyes from the sun. Take breaks from screen time and close your eyes when they start to hurt. If you wear makeup, be sure to remove it completely before bed. Take care of your eyes every day and they will take care of you.

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