There’s more to dry eyes than a feeling of dryness in your eyes. Dry eyes can feel like your eyes are constantly itching, irritated, and red. You may experience burning, stinging, blurriness, and other sensations. You may have difficulties driving at night or using a computer at work.
Also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca, dry eye syndrome is an inflammatory condition in which the eyes don’t produce enough tears, or the quality of the tear film is poor.
The condition may occur for different reasons, not all of them under your control. But certain preventable factors increase the risk you will develop it, or make it worse if you already have it.
Before we look at common mistakes that lead to dry eyes, let’s start with the common causes leading to this condition.
Dry Eye Syndrome Causes
The lacrimal glands in the upper corner of the eyes, right under the outer edge of the eyebrows, secrete a watery layer with soluble proteins in it. Meanwhile, glands embedded in the white of the eye and under the eyelids secrete a mucus layer. Glands at the edge of your eyelids produce an oily layer. All these layers come together to create the tear film that lubricates and protects your eyes.
Multiple causes can lead to dry eye syndrome, including:
- Aging, which leads to the slowing-down of tear production and potential imbalances in the tear film
- Prolonged screen use, which disrupts your normal blink rate (blinking helps spread the tear film over the surface of the eye)
- Using contact lenses
- Taking antihistamines, antidepressants, high blood pressure medication, birth control pills, and other medication that can cause dry eyes as a side effect
- Working or living in an environment where you’re exposed to smoke, wind, dry air from air conditioning systems, or pollutants
- Having diabetes, a thyroid or immune disorder, rheumatoid arthritis, or another condition that causes dry eyes
- Having eye surgery, which can cause temporary dry eyes
- Using certain eye drops
Common Mistakes Leading to Dry Eyes Syndrome
While some people are more predisposed to dry eyes than others, dry eyes prevention is possible. The following mistakes can increase your risk of developing dry eyes. They can also make mild dry eyes worse. Avoid them!
1. Viewing Screens for Hours Every Day Without Taking Frequent Breaks
Screen time can lead to more incomplete blinks, which don’t spread the tear film properly over the surface of the eye. It can leave your eyes feeling dry and tired. But what if you have to work on a computer?
The 20-20-20 rule and other eye exercises can encourage you to blink more often. Every 20 minutes, give your eyes a 20-second break by gazing at an object twenty feet away.
2. Using Certain Eye Drops
Eye drops may all look the same, but don’t confuse them for artificial tears, which your doctor may recommend if your eyes are very dry. Multidose eye drops, which often have preservatives, can make dry eyes worse by turning them into a chronic problem. The same is true for eye drops for red eyes.
Often, it’s best to limit the use of over-the-counter eye drops. Apply eye drops only if your eye doctor recommends them.
3. Wearing Contact Lenses All the Time
Contact lenses have to stick to your cornea to work, and this may increase your risk of having dry eyes syndrome. Falling asleep with your contact lenses isn’t a good idea either.
If you are wearing contact lenses to correct vision problems, consider switching to eyeglasses. Or at least wear them less often if possible.
4. Taking Medications That Can Cause Dry Eyes as a Side Effect
A long list of medications can cause dry eyes, including blood pressure pills, antidepressants, antihistamines, birth control pills, and many more.
If you are taking medication that lists dry eyes as a side effect, discuss with your doctor whether it’s possible to replace it with something that’s easier on your eyes.
5. Not Treating Underlying Diseases That Can Cause the Condition
From diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis to less common conditions like Sjogren’s, many diseases can cause dry eyes.
If you suffer from a condition that can cause it, discuss with your doctor all your treatment options to find out how to best preserve your vision.
6. Exposing Your Eyes to Smoke
In addition to its many other well-known harmful effects, smoking can disrupt the lipid layer of the tear film and irritate your eyes.
If you smoke, try quitting. Your eyes and the rest of your body will be grateful. You also want to avoid exposing yourself to second-hand smoke during breaks at work, when you go out, or at home, if another family member smokes.
7. Overusing Air Conditioning or Fans
Air from A/C and fans that blow near your face can contribute to dry eyes over time. For the same reasons, driving with your car windows lowered isn’t a good idea.
Avoid exposing yourself to direct air currents. You could also add a humidifier to your desk.
8. Not Wearing Sunglasses When It’s Windy
Wind causes tears to evaporate faster, leaving your eyes feeling dry. It’s not only the wind that can hurt your eyes but also the dust particles it carries.
Have a pair of eyeglasses or sunglasses ready for when you’re going out on windy days. For the best protection, use wraparound glasses.
9. Not Eating a Healthy Diet for Your Eyes
Omega fatty acids, Vitamins A, C, E, B2, B6, B12, the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, and zinc play a key role in keeping your eyes healthy. Drinking plenty of water every day is also important to hydrate your eyes.
Eating fewer omega-6 fatty acids and more omega-3 fatty acids and taking an eye health supplement can also help improve the quality of the tear film. Consider also following a Mediterranean Diet, which a 2020 study found can improve dry eye symptoms.
10. Not Getting Tested for Dry Eye Syndrome
Finally, one of the best ways to deal with dry eye syndrome is to test your eyes. The condition can cause many symptoms, some of them subtle. At first, these may pass unnoticed, or you may mistake them for another ailment.
Living with undiagnosed dry eyes can make your symptoms worse and increase the risk of corneal damage over time. Testing your eyes will enable you to get the latest treatments for dry eyes and encourage you to make healthy lifestyle changes.
You can now take a simple dry eye test online. It takes only a few minutes. Take the Dry Eye Test now.