closeup of human black and white eye

Severe Dry Eye: Causes and Remedies

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Are your eyes gritty, irritated, and sensitive to light? Don’t take these symptoms lightly.

What may start as regular dry eye syndrome may worsen with time. That’s when you may experience severe dry eye. The condition comes with mild to severe pain. Left untreated, it can potentially damage the surface of your eye.­

On the plus side, there are many ways to combat severe dry eye. You can apply a warm compress, try lid scrubs, and take omega-3 supplements.

In this article, we talk about the symptoms and causes of severe dry eye and what you can do to treat it. But first, let’s see what severe dry eye is exactly.

Severe Dry Eyes Explained

Tears are necessary for maintaining eye health. They provide lubrication, nourishment, and protection against infections.

When you have dry eye syndrome, your eyes don’t make enough tears. You may also get dry eyes if your tears evaporate faster than normal. This can cause discomfort, irritation, inflammation, and blurred vision.

A more advanced stage of this condition is severe dry eye. It’s characterized by more severe symptoms, like persistent dryness, extreme pain, and reduced vision.

If left untreated, severe dry eye can cause long-term damage to your eyes including:

  • Corneal damage: Persistent dry eyes can damage your cornea, leading to corneal ulcers or perforations.
  • Eye infection: Your tears have antibodies that fight infection. Lack of tears can make your eyes more susceptible to infections such as conjunctivitis or keratitis.
  • Vision problems: In extreme cases, severe dry eye complications can lead to reduced vision and even blindness.
  • Decreased quality of life: With symptoms like eye pain, fatigue, and inflammation, severe dry eyes can impact your quality of life. You will have difficulty focusing on work at home and in the office.

Severe Dry Eye Symptoms

Severe dry eye symptoms can be painful and uncomfortable. They can affect your day-to-day activities, like driving, reading, or even working on a computer for long hours.

closeup of male left eye seen from profile with freckled face in the background

Some common symptoms you will face if you have severe dry eye include:

  • Persistent dryness or a gritty sensation in your eyes
  • Redness and irritation
  • Severe dry eye causing blurred vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Burning, stinging, or itching sensation
  • Eye fatigue even after waking
  • Difficulty wearing contact lenses
  • Extremely dry eyes in the morning
  • Excessive tearing (because of reflex tearing)
  • Sticky discharge

Causes of Severe Dry Eye

As you get older, the composition and production of your tears change. This makes you more susceptible to dry eye, especially after 50.

Women are also more likely than men to develop dry eyes, especially during pregnancy and menopause. This happens because of fluctuations in estrogen, a hormone that helps to regulate tear production and maintain the health of the ocular surface.

Diet can be another contributing factor to dry eyes. Certain nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins A, C, and E, are essential for maintaining the health of the tear film and preventing dry eyes. Nutrient deficiency can lead to dry, uncomfortable eyes.

white plate with sad face drawn on it and fork and knife to one side

When it comes to severe dry eyes, this condition may develop as a gradual worsening of untreated dry eyes. It may also occur suddenly because of specific triggers.

While dry eye syndrome and severe dry eye syndrome have similar causes, the latter is typically caused by more severe and chronic factors.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common factors for severe dry eyes:

  • Medical conditions: When it comes to severe dry eye, autoimmune disease and diabetes may also act as triggers. Rheumatoid arthritis and Sjogren’s syndrome attack your tear glands and reduce the production of healthy tears.
  • Medications: Some medications can also cause dry eye. These include antihistamines, decongestants, birth control pills, and antidepressants. You may also develop severe dry eye in one eye only.
  • Hormonal changes: Hormonal changes, such as those that occur during pregnancy, hormone replacement therapy, and menopause, can also cause dry eyes.
  • Environmental factors: Exposure to very dry, windy, or dusty environments can contribute to severe dry eye. These either reduce the amount of moisture in the air or expose your eyes to irritants.
  • Eye surgery: Severe dry eye after cataract surgery, glaucoma surgery, or a corneal transplant is common. If you are considering getting eye surgery, discuss the risk of dry eyes with your doctor.
  • Use of digital devices: Staring at a computer or other digital screens for extended periods can contribute to dry eyes. That’s because your normal blinking pattern changes and tears evaporate more quickly.
  • Eyelid problems: Your eyelids play an important role in distributing the tear film and lubricating your eyes. When there is an issue with your eyelids, like blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelids) or eyelid malposition, your eyes may get dry too quickly.
  • Tear gland damage: Damage to the tear glands due to infection or inflammation can also cause severe dry eye syndrome.

Severe Dry Eye Remedies

There are a few things you can do at home to alleviate the symptoms of severe dry eyes. Apply a warm compress twice a day, ensure eyelid hygiene by gently scrubbing your eyelids, take omega-3 and eye health supplements, and use a humidifier.

You can also ask your eye doctor about punctal plugs and whether they’re recommended for your case.

Apply Warm Compresses

Applying a warm compress to your eyes is a great way to relieve dry eyes. The warmth from the compress will stimulate the oil glands in your eyelids.

This will improve the quality of your tears and keep them from evaporating too quickly. Additionally, the heat will reduce inflammation and promote healing.

Warm compresses can be particularly helpful for people with meibomian gland dysfunction, a condition where your oil glands become blocked or dysfunctional, leading to dry eyes.

Apply the compress once or twice a day, depending on the severity of your dry eye symptoms.

Try Lid Scrubs

Using lid scrubs is another effective remedy for severe dry eye, especially if it’s caused by an underlying condition like blepharitis or meibomian gland dysfunction.

Lid scrubs will remove debris and buildup in your eyelids that clog your oil glands. It will also reduce inflammation and prevent eyelid infection.

By regularly cleaning your eyelids and lashes, lid scrubs will help promote a healthier tear film. But make sure to choose a cleanser that is designed for use on the eyelids.

Use Punctal Plugs

Normally, tears moisten the surface of your eyes and drain into the tear ducts (puncta) and down into the nasal cavity. But with dry eye, your tears evaporate too quickly and don’t provide sufficient lubrication.

That’s when punctal plugs come to the rescue. These are tiny devices inserted into your tear ducts. They’re made of silicone and come in different sizes and shapes to fit your needs. They work by blocking your tear ducts and keeping your eyes moist for longer.

Take Omega-3 Supplements

If your diet is lacking in omega-3 fatty acids, consider taking supplements.

fish oil capsule supplements on a wooden spoon

Fish oil and algal oil capsules rich in omega-3 fatty acids can effectively combat dry eye symptoms. Here’s how:

  • Improve tear production: Omega-3 fatty acids, especially EPA and DHA, increase tear production and help alleviate dry eye symptoms.
  • Reduce inflammation: Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties. They are great for reducing symptoms of eyelid inflammation, redness, and soreness.
  • Improve tear quality: The oily layer of your tear film keeps the tears from evaporating too quickly. Omega-3 supplements can improve the composition of your tear film and reduce tear evaporation.

Rest Your Eyes

Resting your eyes can be an effective way to reduce dry eye symptoms and improve eye health. Here are some tips on how to rest your eyes:

  • Blink frequently: Blinking helps spread fresh tears over the surface of your eyes, reducing dryness and irritation. Make a conscious effort to blink more often, especially when working at a computer or reading.
  • Follow the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, take a quick 20 second break and look at a wall 20 feet away. This can reduce eye strain and fatigue, which can contribute to a dry cornea.
  • Take breaks from screens: Staring at a computer, phone, or tablet screen for extended periods can lead to very dry eyes. Take regular breaks to rest your eyes and reduce eye strain. You can also check our post on top tips to reduce computer eye strain.

Use a Humidifier

Dry air, especially during winter, can trigger severe dry eye syndrome. Your tears will evaporate more quickly, and your eyes will feel gritty and sore all day. Using a humidifier will help combat dryness by adding moisture to the air.

Place the humidifier in the room you spend the most time in. While stepping out, try wraparound sunglasses to shield your eyes from dry wind and dust.

Tip: Clean your humidifier and change the water regularly to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold. Dirty humidifiers can aggravate allergy symptoms and other respiratory problems.

Avoid Dry Eye Triggers

Dry eyes can be triggered by a variety of factors. Identifying and avoiding these triggers can help reduce the frequency and severity of your symptoms. Here are some dry eye triggers to avoid:

  • Environmental factors: Exposure to dry air, wind, and dust can increase the evaporation of tears and worsen dry eye symptoms. Avoid dry or windy environments and wear protective eyewear.
  • Contact lenses: Wearing contact lenses for an extended period can worsen dry eye symptoms. Switch to eyeglasses instead. You can also check our post on how to manage dry eyes while wearing contact lenses.
  • Smoking: Smoking can increase the risk of dry eye syndrome. Quit smoking for better overall health.
  • Hair dryers: Avoid blowing hair dryers directly into your eyes. Also, stay away as much as possible from air conditioning.

Take an Eye Health Supplement

Feeding your eyes and tear glands the key nutrients they need every day can soothe severe dry eye symptoms.

SightC is a natural full-spectrum vision health supplement formulated after 30 years of clinical experience in treating patients with eye problems.

Formulated with goji berries, turmeric, Chinese yams, and other plants long used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, it provides essential vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants including lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin C, and omega-3 fatty acids.

The ingredients in SightC work synergistically to make the supplement more potent than the sum of its parts.

SightC can nourish your eyes and support healthy tear production. It can soothe dry eye symptoms and make it easier for your eyes to cope with eye fatigue. A plant-based supplement, it’s free from gluten and sugar.

Soothe your eyes and keep them healthy with SightC.

The Wrap Up

Severe dry eye syndrome may cause discomfort, irritation, and reduced vision. But the condition is easily manageable with a few home remedies.

These involve a combination of approaches, including the use of warm compresses, lid scrubs, and humidifiers. Also useful are lifestyle changes to reduce exposure to dry eye triggers, like dry air, wind, and smoke.

In more extreme cases, punctal plugs may be used to help retain tears on the surface of your eye.

With these self-care measures, you will be able to find relief from severe dry eye symptoms and maintain good eye health.
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