Dry Eye Causes – It could be more than meets the eye

Eye contact is considered fundamental when it comes to communication. You can gauge the attentiveness and mood of someone simply by making eye contact. The thought that you can judge the personality of an individual by looking into their eyes has been scientifically studied. One study had a group of individuals to rate the health and mood of a series of photos zeroed in on just the eyes. Photos of large, symmetrical, clear and bright eyes were described as healthy, happy and younger when compared to photos of blood shot, dull, asymmetrical eyes. Even children were found to base the mood and emotion of cartoon characters on the size, coloring and contour of the eye. With eyes playing an integral role in social interaction and communication it makes sense to care for your aging peepers.

The most common eye condition presenting to physician offices is the dry eye. Dry eye symptoms can be defined as itchy, irritated or red eyes. Temporary dry eye symptoms are normally due to environmental causes like allergies, climate changes and sun or physical trauma like from contact lenses. Temporary symptoms of dry eye can be relieved by protecting eyes from elements with glasses, avoiding allergic triggers and by removing contact lenses.

When dry eye symptoms become chronic, there may be more going on that meets the eye, literally. While temporary eye irritation is totally normal, chronic eye irritation is not only a nuisance but can be telling of a deeper health issue. The following are underlying health conditions that have been associated with chronic dry eye symptoms.

Autoimmunity

Severe chronic dry eyes can be caused by the autoimmune condition Sjogren’s syndrome, as it directly affects the glands that manufacture saliva and tears, therefore, leaving they eyes without lubrication. Like most autoimmune conditions, Sjogren’s syndrome typically affects women. Sjogren’s symptoms can range from mild eye and mouth dryness to systemic symptoms including dysfunction of liver, kidneys, central nervous system and gastrointestinal tract. There are specific tests that can be run to determine if Sjogren’s is a possible cause for chronic dry eye.

Scleroderma is another autoimmune condition that can affect the body’s ability to lubricate the eyes. Scleroderma creates hardening and contraction of soft tissue that can affect the skin, muscles and internal organs. When the glands that secrete tears, the lacrimal glands, become hardened and constricted, the ability to lubricate the eyes is diminished. Like Sjogren’s syndrome, there are tests that can be run to determine if scleroderma is the cause of dry eye.

Hormones

Eye health can be impacted by hormonal imbalances, particularly when estrogen, progesterone and testosterone are not in adequate amounts. Hormones play a role in maintaining and protecting the tissue of the lacrimal ducts.  These hormones can be out of balance in both men and women and can be influenced by natural hormone fluxes like during menopause. Ensuring proper estrogen, progesterone and testosterone balance will not only improve eye health but also improve overall health. Testing for levels of sex hormones can further hone in on reasons for chronic dry eye.

Nutritional Influences

Eye health can be influenced by the food we are putting into our bodies. Foods that are high in omega 3 fatty acids, antioxidants and xanthophylls are known to protect and rebuild the tissues of the eye. Fish, particularly salmon, is a natural source of omega-3 fatty acids.  Antioxidant rich foods like dark leafy greens and colorful fruits protect the eye from oxidative stress from wind, sun and debris. Xanthophylls, particularly lutein and zeanxathin, are a yellow carotenoid pigments found in eggs, vegetables and fruits.

For more specific information on your nutritional needs, testing can be done to pinpoint nutrient deficiencies and supplementation or foods can be used to improve levels.

Allergies

Allergies and sensitivities can contribute to chronic dry eye symptoms. The best way to treat allergic eyes is to avoid the allergen. When seasonal allergy pollen counts are at their highest try to avoid sleeping with windows open, take a shower at night and consider a hepa filter in the bedroom to prevent allergens from coming in and to help clear them from the air. In addition to keeping the bedroom as clean as possible, avoidance of exposure can help to reduce irritating allergic eye symptoms. When avoidance alone doesn’t do the trick, soothing botanical eye drops can be used to calm irritation and irrigate eyes. Considering allergy testing to find your particular triggers can help to determine the best ways to avoid your specific allergens.

Medications

Several medications can create dry eye symptom. The best way to reduce dry eyes due to medication is to ensure you are properly hydrated. Dehydration alone can lead to dry eyes, thereby adding dehydrating medications like antihistamines to the mix can further dry out eyes. Start by drinking plenty of water and if dry eyes persist, speak with your prescribing physician about your symptoms.

Insomnia

Sleep is needed for restoration, detoxification and anti-inflammation purposes. Sleep allows the eyes to refresh, hydrate and rebuild. Making time for quality sleep will improve energy, therefore reducing tired dry eyes.

From a health standpoint, taking measures to preserve eye health now by improving overall health can prevent future eye damaging conditions like cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Our eyes are telling the outside world more than we may know, so lets start seeing the future through clear healthy eyes!

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