Things You Never Realized Cause Dry Eyes

Most people will experience dry eyes every once in a while. Whether it's a windy day or the side effect of drugs like antihistamines, we all know the scratchy, sensitive feeling of dry eyes. Other symptoms that might occur can include redness, blurry vision, and light sensitivity (via WebMD).

There are some unusual things that can contribute to dry eyes, however, so it's not always the best idea just to ignore them and move on. Dr. Jordan Kassalow, Optometrist and Partner at Drs. Farkas, Kassalow, Resnick & Associates in Manhattan, and advisor for PAIR Eyewear, spoke to Health Digest about when it might be time to visit an eye care professional.

One common cause of dry eyes is computer vision syndrome, also known as digital eye strain. "When we look at computers, our blink rate goes down, in the short term this can cause dry eyes because it leads to an increase in the evaporation of the tears but over the long term can cause dryness due to the damage to the meibomian glands (glands in the upper and lower lid that secret fine oils that cover the watery part of the tears to reduce evaporation)," said Dr. Kassalow.

To fight off digital eye strain he recommends the 20/20/20/20 rule. Every 20 minutes look 20 feet away for 20 seconds, then squeeze eyelids together 20 times to lubricate them.

Here's when to visit the eye doctor

Sometimes, though, dry eyes can't be dealt with on your own. Another contributor might be something called Demodex mites. These are microscopic mites that naturally live in hair follicles, feeding on dead skin cells. According to Kassalow, Demodex mites create toxins that can damage meibomian glands and prevent proper tearing. An eye care professional can diagnose Demodex mites. "[I]f mites are confirmed, the doctor will prescribe appropriate ointments or tea tree oils as well as a lid hygiene regimen," Kassalow said.

The meibomian glands themselves can also be the cause of dry eyes, if something called Meibomian Gland Disease (MGD) develops. This occurs when the glands atrophy which reduces the oily protective layer surrounding tears. Without the oil, tears evaporate more quickly, resulting in dry eyes. A visit to an eye care professional who can diagnose MGD is the first step to addressing the issue. "Recommended treatments can be mechanical (flush out the blocked oils), heat treatments, lid hygiene, medical, vitamin supplement or a combination of the above," said Kassalow