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Causes and Risk Factors of Dry Eye

dry eye optometrist leesburg gaWho Gets Dry Eye?

Seniors, people 55 years of age and older are more likely to experience dry eye symptoms, but dry eye can develop at any age. Research has estimated that almost 5 million people in the United States, age 50 years and older have dry eye already, and 3 million of these are women. Many millions more Americans are suffering with mild dry eye symptoms due to extensive time on viewing electronic devices and working at the computer. As well, for women, dry eye is very common after menopause. Women who get early onset menopause are also at higher risk for damage of the surface of their eye from dry eye.

What Causes Dry Eye?

Dry eye can be the result of one or many different factors, and can be temporary, or chronic. Below is a list of some of the main causes of dry eye:

  • Allergies: many people with seasonal and chronic allergies experience dry eye.
  • Glandular diseases in the eyelid: meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) is a leading cause of dry eye.
  • Medications: side effects of some medications cause dry eye, such as nasal decongestants, antihistamines, birth control pills, anti-depressants, tranquilizers, certain blood pressure medicines, and Parkinson’s medications.
  • Pregnancy: many women during pregnancy have temporary dry eye.
  • Not blinking enough: people who work or stare at a computer or video screen for long periods of time and don’t blink enough as a result, can develop dry eye.
  • Long-term contact lens wear: many long-term contact lens wearers lose sensation in the cornea of their eye which can lead to dry eye.
  • Laser surgery or LASIK: Dry eye is a common side effect after the refractive surgery and the symptoms can last three to six months, and in some cases longer.
  • Hormone replacement therapy: menopausal women are 70 percent more likely to experience dry symptoms if they are taking only estrogen replacement therapy. Women who are taking estrogen and progesterone together have only a 30 percent increased risk of developing dry eye.
  • Immune system disorders: Dry eye is also associated with immune system disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and Sjögren’s syndrome. Sjögren’s especially, can cause inflammation and dryness of the mouth, eyes, and other mucous membranes.
  • Chronic conjunctivitis: Dry eye is a symptom of the inflammation of the membrane which lines the eyelid, or lacrimal gland. This can be caused by eye disease, infection, or exposure to tobacco smoke, chemicals, or constant drafts from air or heat.
  • Keratitis: Dry eye may occur from keratitis because the eyelids do not close completely during sleep allowing the eye to become extremely dry.

The first step is to make an appointment today for an eye exam to determine if you have dry eye. Depending on the causes of your dry eye, your doctor may use various approaches to relieve the symptoms and eliminate dry eye for you.