Dry eyes are a common and often chronic disease that affects nearly 16 million Americans.
As part of the natural aging process, women are more likely to develop dry eyes and are also at higher risk for vision loss.
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The causes of dry eye vary and when tear production and drainage is not balanced, hormonal changes caused by pregnancy, menopause, or the use of birth control pills are often factors.
Additionally, some medications like antihistamines, decongestants, antihypertensives, and antidepressants can reduce tear production.
People with medical conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and thyroid problems, are more likely to experience symptoms of dry eye and eyelid inflammation problems.
Exposure to smoke, wind, and dry climates can also increase tear evaporation, and long-term contact lens use can be a cause of dry eyes.
Computer screens make people blink less often, and the New York Times noted earlier this month that dry eyes are on the increase in young adults.
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The NIH National Eye Institute notes that people short of vitamin A or omega-3 fatty acids or those with certain autoimmune diseases are more likely to have dry eyes.
Symptoms include redness, burning or tingling sensations, sensitivity to light, tearing, blurred vision, and stringy mucus near the eye.
The American Optometric Association notes that dry eyes can be diagnosed by a comprehensive eye exam.
If left untreated, it can sometimes damage the cornea.
What can be done to relieve and treat dry eyes?
Over-the-counter eye drops, prescription drugs, tear plugs, and surgery are all options depending on the severity of the dry eye.
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Prevention methods include removing yourself from environmental conditions that can exacerbate dry eyes, staying hydrated, sleeping about seven to eight hours a night, wearing wraparound sunglasses outside, limiting screen time, taking pictures. nutritional supplements and increase air humidity at work and at home.