What Is the Health Significance of Having Dry Eyes and What Can Be Done?

“If left unchecked, your dry eyes can become a progressive disorder. It starts off just to be a nuisance but soon the irritation saps your energy.”

You have heard the saying, “there was not a dry eye in the house”. If you talk to most groups of seniors and those in dryer climates, there was not a wet eye in the group.
What exactly is dry eye disease (DED)? Dry eyes are caused by a lack of adequate tears. Your tears are a complex mixture of water, fatty oils and mucus. This mixture helps make the surface of your eyes smooth and clear, and it helps protect your eyes from infection. For some people, the cause of dry eyes is decreased tear production. For others it’s increased tear evaporation and an imbalance in the makeup of your tears.

Dry eyes make you feel tired and they may sting, burn, itch, or feel gritty—like you have a hair or a broken blood vessel, it begins to drive you mad. Plus, there is the look of red, like you were studying all night. If the eyes are the window to the soul, tongue in cheek, what does that say about your soul? You don’t want to have old looking eyes, but when you see your eyes in the mirror, it affects your entire appearance, the lines, wrinkles, and bags seem to pop like never before, and this is not just cosmetic; there is more at stake. As time progresses, your vision may become blurry or may fluctuate. Then there is the entertainment of watching floaters. With allergies it is even worse: your eyes are more sensitive to light, and you feel you need help like a new prescription for glasses or how to manage with contacts lenses.

These dry eye symptoms are red flags, pun intended, and if left unchecked, your dry eyes can become a progressive disorder. It starts off just to be a nuisance but soon the irritation saps your energy. Eye pain seems inescapable as you attempt to fix the issue with multiple eye drops. When these don’t work, the condition can affect your mind, mood and your productivity. Not to mention that our lifestyle may make matters worse when your ability to read, watch TV, use a smartphone, or drive at night become affected.

But is this disease equally typical to both men and women? Apparently, more female than male patients seek care for their DED and it is not a result of a single reason. Dry eye becomes more common and worsens with age and as women live longer, they form a higher percentage of older patients. Also, “hormonal changes beginning around the age of 40 increase the risk for dry eye disease. In my experience, women also are more likely than men to seek help for their dry eye condition” says Kendall Donaldson, MD, member of the ophthalmic community. Studies prove this phenomena too, e.g “the Women’s Health Study and the Physician’s Health Studies showed a statistically significant, age-adjusted 70% increase in risk of DED among women. The Beaver Dam Study showed that the prevalence of DED is 50% higher among women than men.”

Besides the factors mentioned before, eye surgeries (LASIK and cataract removal) and contact lens wear can lead to the development of DED as well. “About 30% of the 140 million people who wear contact lenses worldwide discontinue use due to dryness and eye discomfort. People who wear contacts are four times more likely to develop DED than those who do not.”

  • Common causes of decreased tear production include:
    • aging, thyroid disorder
    • certain medical conditions including diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma, Sjogren’s syndrome, thyroid disorders and vitamin A deficiency
    • certain medications, including antihistamines, decongestants, hormone replacement therapy, antidepressants, and drugs for high blood pressure, acne, birth control and Parkinson’s disease
    • laser eye surgery (though symptoms of dry eyes related to this procedure are usually temporary)
    • tear gland damage from inflammation or radiation

What can be done to find a natural solution without side effects to give relief? For me, I understand the need to open up the blocked tear ducts. Here is what I do: I take about one quarter cup sea salt and heat it in a pan. Once warm, I place the salt in a hand towel, lie down and place it over my eyes till the heat departs. I repeat this process again and do it every evening. You will find that your eyes become blurry as the fat glands open up, and resume lubricating your eyes. To help combat hormone imbalance of thyroid disease, it would be recommended to take Doctor’s Choice Thyrodine Thyroid Gland. In addition, taking Doctor’s Choice Next Generation B-Complex is most helpful, as it has the nutrients to help with eye health. As for the lines and puffy eyes, it is good to use chamomile tea bags and then for the tissue health and healing I would recommend Doctor’s Choice DMAE Restorative Cream.

References:
• Donaldson, Kendall E. MD. 2018. Is dry eye different for women and men? https://www.ophthalmologytimes.com/article/dry-eye-different-women-and-men
• Dalton, Michelle. 2019. Understanding prevalence, demographics of dry eye disease. https://www.ophthalmologytimes.com/ocular-surface-disease/understanding-prevalence-demographics-dry-eye-disease/page/0/1