From eye drops to hot compresses and lifestyle changes, managing dry eye disease can sometimes feel like a full-time job. Dry eye disease is basically a tear film instability. Your tear film is a thin, fluid-based layer that protects the eye, promotes wound healing, and helps maintain quality vision. In healthy eyes, the tears that support this layer quickly respond to environmental stressors—all without discomfort, visual disturbance, or your awareness. But, this layer breaks down if there’s a loss of tear balance in your eyes. This generally results from: tear glands that do not produce enough tears, a problem known as “aqueous tear deficiency”.
On the flip side, dry eyes can also cause dry, itchy, scratching sensations.
Other common dry eye symptoms include:
Feeling like there’s something gritty or sandy in your eye
Burning, stinging, and redness
Blurry vision—including fluctuations throughout the day
Sharp pains in the eye
Eye heaviness and light sensitivity
Dry eye disease can develop from various factors. Genetically, if we have certain systemic conditions like autoimmune diseases, we are more likely to have dry eyes as well. Many common medications list dry eye as a side effect, including antidepressants, antihistamines, and painkillers. Shifting hormone levels can also affect the glands in our eyes. That’s why women are more likely to have dry eyes than men—especially during pregnancy, menopause, and when using hormonal contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy. With dry eye, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. A thorough examination and complete medical history are needed to determine the exact origin of the problem, which strongly guides the treatment protocol. But just as treatment options are getting more effective, diagnostic capabilities are advancing as well. Today’s tools allow doctors to closely measure various physiological factors that help paint a complete picture of what’s going on in your eyes. All of this data can give an eye doctor a good indication of the likely cause of dry eye and the treatments that are likely to address the specific problems. There might be a bit of trial and error—but for most people, most of the time, they will get a good result from dry eye treatment.