Many people wonder what causes dry eyes. In general, dry eye can occur from improper balance of tear production and tear drainage and/or from poor tear quality.
• Improper tear balance. Several glands in and around the eyelids produce tears. Usually, tear production decreases with age. Also, certain diseases and medications can cause decreased tear production. When the normal amount of tears lowers or tears evaporate from the eye too quickly, dry eye occurs.
• Poor tear quality. Tears consist of three main components: outer, oily lipid layer, middle, watery layer and inner, mucus layer. Each tear component serves a specific purpose – for example the oily layer lubricates and protects the cornea and prevents evaporation of the watery tear component; the inner mucus layer helps tears spread evenly over the entire surface of the eye. Any imbalance between these three components may result into dry eye.
What causes dry eyes? The most common causes of dry eye are associated with age, gender, medications, certain medical conditions, environmental factors and lifestyle habits.
Age. Dry eye is considered part of the natural aging process as tear production tend to diminish with age. However, many young people also develop dry eye. Usually, these are people spending long hours of uninterrupted eye work.
Gender. Dry eye is most common among women due to hormonal imbalances and changes during pregnancies, menopause and contraception.
Medications. Some medications inhibit tear production and their long term use may cause dry eye. These are antihistamine medications, blood pressure medications, some anti-depressants and birth control pills.
Medical conditions. Having certain medical problems may increase the risk of dry eye. Skin diseases on or around the eye lids, allergies, immune system disorders such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, thyroid gland disorders may result in dry eye.
Environmental factors. Frequent exposure to smoke, wind and dry climates or conditioned air tend to increase the risk of dry eye.
When discussing what causes dry eyes, we must mention diet and eating habits. Dry eye may be caused by insufficient vitamin intake or over intake of certain vitamins. That is why maintaining a healthy vision diet is of utmost importance for its prevention.
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