Dry Eyes and Cataracts – Is There a Link?
Cataracts can make your eyes dry. Dry eyes can make your vision blurry. Is this another vicious cycle that never ends?
Not really. While the two conditions may come with a few similar symptoms, they affect your eyes in different ways. But there is a link between the two.
In this post, we explain how cataracts and dry eyes are connected, even if the connection is an indirect one.
The Connection Between Dry Eyes and Cataracts
Dry eyes and cataracts are different eye conditions. They affect different parts of your eye. But is there a link between the two? To answer this, let’s first understand what these conditions are exactly.
What Are Cataracts?
Cataracts affect your eye’s natural lens. It occurs when the proteins in your lens break down and clump together. This makes your lens clouded and blocks light from reaching your retina.
You will experience a range of symptoms, like glare, halos, and blurry vision. Eventually, you will have to undergo cataract surgery to restore your vision.
What Is Dry Eye Syndrome?
Dry eye syndrome, on the other hand, affects your cornea. It comes with a decrease in the quality and quantity of your tears, making your eyes feel dried out.
If you have dry eyes, you will experience eye redness, irritation, itching, and discomfort. And yes, blurry vision will follow shortly.
What’s the Link Between Cataracts and Dry Eyes?
There isn’t a direct cause-and-effect link between dry eyes and cataracts. But both conditions can coexist.
That said, if you have dry eyes, you may also develop certain cataract symptoms, like foggy or fuzzy vision. On the other hand, cataract surgery can trigger dry eye symptoms.
What’s more, certain factors, like age, diabetes, and smoking can lead to both cataracts and dry eyes.
- Age factor: Both dry eyes and cataracts are age-related. Dry eyes often occur because of reduced tear production, which is common as you age. Cataracts are also a natural part of aging where your eye lens becomes cloudy as you grow older.
- Health conditions: Certain underlying health conditions, like diabetes, can increase your risk of both dry eyes and cataracts. That’s because high blood sugar levels disrupt the normal functioning of the structures in and around your eyes.
- Smoking: Smoking causes oxidative stress in your body and can lead to the clouding of the lens. It also causes eye irritation and dryness.
- Eye trauma: Injury to the eye can cause cataracts, especially if it damages your lens. Damaged tear and oil glands can further lead to dry eyes.
- Nutritional deficiency: Your eyes need certain nutrients, like vitamins A, C, and E to function normally. A lack of these nutrients is associated with an increased risk of cataracts and dry eyes.
Can Dry Eyes Cause Cataracts?
Dry eyes does not cause cataracts. But if left untreated, it can lead to infection, inflammation, and ulcers in your cornea. In turn, these can make your vision blurry and even cause eyesight issues.
Even in the worst-case scenario, however, dry eye syndrome does not affect your eye lens. So, it is safe to say that dry eye is not a contributing factor to cataracts.
With that in mind, dry eyes can come with certain cataract-like symptoms such as blurriness. When your vision turns blurry, you will also find yourself squinting more to focus better.
If you’re using eye drops to treat dry eyes, make sure to check the label. Corticosteroid, a common ingredient in many eye drops, can increase the risk for cataracts.
Can Cataracts Cause Dry Eyes?
In some cases, cataracts can trigger dry eyes. This can happen both before and after your cataract surgery.
Before surgery, you will experience vision changes that can disrupt your tear film and cause dryness. After surgery, dry eye symptoms will be more pronounced. A 2019 study found that 42% of patients develop dry eyes after cataract surgery.
Let’s take a closer look at how cataracts can indirectly lead to dry eye syndrome.
Cataracts cause the clouding of your eye’s lens, which leads to blurry or hazy vision. Because of this, you’re likely to blink more frequently or squint your eyes to improve your focus.
Doing so may disrupt the normal distribution of tears over your eyes. This will turn your eyes dry, red, irritated, and itchy.
Cataract surgery and dry eyes are linked. Eye surgery can disrupt your tear film and damage your corneal nerves. This will cause temporary dryness.
What’s more, cataract surgery involves the removal of the cloudy lens and its replacement with an artificial lens. This may lead to changes in your eye’s structure and cause your tear film to break up more quickly.
Medicated Eye Drops
Before and after cataract surgery, your doctor may prescribe certain medicated eye drops. These eye drops help manage pain and swelling but can worsen your dry eyes.
For example, if you’re using antibiotic steroid eye drops and pain relievers, you risk getting dry and irritated eyes. Make sure to talk to your healthcare provider before using these.
Surgical incisions during cataract surgery can cause inflammation. Since inflammation can affect the normal functioning of your oil and tear glands, it will decrease healthy tear production.
Why Address Dry Eye Before Cataract Surgery?
Got dry eyes before cataract surgery? Better fix the symptoms first. Here’s why:
- Accurate measurements: Dry eyes can cause fluctuations in vision. Addressing these before surgery ensures that measurements, like corneal thickness and shape, are accurate. These measurements are crucial for determining the power of the artificial lens that will be implanted during the surgery.
- Improved surgical experience: Managing dry eye symptoms before surgery can also enhance your overall surgical experience. It will ensure that your eyes feel comfortable before, during, and after the surgery.
- Better recovery: If your dry eye symptoms are under control before surgery, you will also experience a smoother, quicker recovery.
- Optimal visual outcomes: Dry eyes can cause blurred or fluctuating vision, which can persist after surgery. By addressing it beforehand, you are more likely to achieve clear and stable vision after your surgery.
Treatment for Dry Eyes After Cataract Surgery
While dry eyes after cataract surgery is temporary, it’s best to get started early with your post-surgery treatment plan. This will improve your dry, gritty, and painful symptoms and offer quick relief.
The simple go-to option is making lifestyle tweaks. Rest your eyes, stay away from digital screens, and put on sunglasses to shield your eyes from dry wind.
You can also keep yourself hydrated, focus on a balanced diet, and avoid smoke and alcohol. In addition, apply warm compresses to relieve post-surgery inflammation and keep the oils in your tear film flowing.
Cataracts and dry eyes are indirectly linked. Certain dry eye medications can increase your risk of cataracts. On the other hand, post-surgery dry eyes is common in cataract patients. Blame it on tear film disruption, medicated eye drops, and inflammation.
The good news? Dry eyes after cataract surgery is only temporary. Also, one condition does not directly lead to the other.
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