Tears aren't just for when you're feeling down. They are vital in lubricating and cleaning the surface of the eye (also known as the cornea) and washing away foreign debris. Tear production helps maintain a tear film on the cornea, which fights eye infections and improves eye health. Dry eye disease - also sometimes called dry eye syndrome - occurs when the lacrimal glands in the conjunctiva (the membrane inside the eyelid) are unable to produce enough tears to properly lubricate the eye and supply tears. Some specific causes of dry eyes are:
- Inadequate tear production: If your tear ducts don't produce enough tears to lubricate the eye and maintain a tear film, your eyes are at risk of infection and other serious conditions.
- Environmental factors: Dry air or excessive wind can cause increased tear evaporation and reduced tear production.
- Aging: People ages 65+ may experience dry eyes due to a weakening lacrimal gland. This means that tear production is reduced, and the tear film on the corneal surface is less present. This can lead to eye infections and eye problems.
- Medical conditions: Rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disorders, Parkinson's Disease, and diabetes can cause dry eyes. Eye diseases can also cause dryness, such as blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelid), ocular rosacea (rosacea in the eyes), or Sjogren's Syndrome (an autoimmune disease that results in chronic dry eyes and dry mouth).
- Medications: Certain medications, such as antihistamines, decongestants, blood pressure medications (such as diuretics), birth control pills, antidepressants, and acne medication can cause reduced tear production.
- Hormonal changes: Hormonal changes during menopause or ingestion of birth control pills can cause women to develop cases of dry eyes.
- Computer use: Long-term computer use can reduce tear production and lead to dry eyes and blurry vision.
- Corneal nerve conditions: Long-term use of contact lenses, or loss of nerve sensitivity due to eye surgery/ refractive surgery (such as LASIK, can reduce tear production and cases of dry eyes.
- Poor quality of tears: Tears are made up of water, oil, and mucus. Eye conditions such as Meibomian Gland Dysfunction are the result of low-quality tears, which can cause symptoms of dry eyes.