ASK YOUR PHARMACIST
Eamonn Brady is a pharmacist and the owner of Whelehans Pharmacy, Pearse St, Mullingar. If you have any health questions e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Symptoms of dry eyes can include irritation and redness, itchy eyes, burning eyes, blurred vision (that improves with blinking), excessive tears (eye tries to over compensate) and the sensation of grit in the eyes.
People can find that dry eye symptoms are fine in the morning (as the eyelids have been closed overnight and tears do not evaporate) but gets worse as the day goes on as the eyes are exposed to the elements and evaporation of tears increases. The most common treatment for dry eyes is artificial tears that are available over the counter in pharmacies.
Some medical conditions cause dry eye including hayfever, arthritis, thyroid conditions, vitamin A deficiency, Parkinson's disease and Sjögren syndrome.
Dry eye mostly occurs as a part of the natural ageing process. It affects about a third of people over 65 and is 50% more common in women than men. Hormonal changes during menopause can also cause eyes problems in women.
Eyelid issues can include blocked meibomian glands which produce the protective oily layer of the tear film or damage to the tear producing glands. Blepharitis which is inflammation of the eyelids can cause blockage of the oil producing glands. Causes of blepharitis include dry skin conditions like seborrhoeic dermatitis (similar to dandruff) and rosacea.
Some medicines can cause dry eyes including oral contraceptives, decongestants (used to unblock the nose), diuretics (used to reduce blood pressure and reduce fluid), anti-histamines, beta blockers (used for heart problems and high blood pressure), some older anti-depressants (eg tri-cyclic antidepressants) and anti-inflammatory medicines.
Contact lenses increase the risk of dry eyes, especially if kept in too long. Water-based lenses tend to absorb moisture from the tear film; this reduces the quantity of remaining tears. Using higher moisture or silicone hydrogel contact lenses reduces dry eye issues.
Sjögren syndrome is an autoimmune inflammatory condition in which the body’s white blood cells attack other cells in the body. Dry eyes and mouth occur in 95% of cases. Most people with Sjögren syndrome need artificial tears on a regular basis.
People working on screens for long periods at a time tend to blink less frequently. This allows tears to evaporate more readily which can lead to dry eyes. Smoking or exposure to smoke from a smoker can irritate the eyes and cause dryness. Similarly, air pollution (eg. exhaust fumes) can cause the problem.
Tips for easing dry eyes
Avoid constant exposure to air conditioning and central heating. Avoid draughts. Humidifiers may help. Blink more frequently if you work on a computer screen or read for long periods. Next week in the Westmeath Examiner I will discuss treatment dry eyes.
This article is shortened to fit within Newspaper space limits. More detailed information and leaflets is available in Whelehans