It is common knowledge these days that older people are prone to illness and disease. Their bodies seem to shrink as they get older, their skin becomes wrinkly, and simple bodily functions cease to operate properly. One of these is vision and the condition of the eye. A lot of elderly people suffer from cataracts and impaired vision, which is mostly caused by a lifetime of unknown strain on the actual muscle of the eye. But what if this happens in younger people, especially those under the age of 40?
What is Dry Eye Syndrome?Quite simply, this disorder is caused by a breakdown of functions in the eye. It is all connected to the tear film, a protective shield that covers the cornea (the centre of the eye) and stops grit or other foreign bodies from scratching it. This tear film is what gives the human eye its moisture, a constant watery layer to keep the eye clean and free from disease.
But dry eye syndrome is not only related to lack of tears. When this watery layer of protective mucus is damaged it can no longer shield the most sensitive part of the eye (cornea). The brain will automatically send messages to try and produce tears to make up for this dryness, and this will result in a stream of water coming from the tear ducts. So from having very dry, sore eyes, the person is now suffering very wet, sore eyes. Yet as soon as this water stream slows, it evaporates, and the eye is back to its usual dry, uncomfortable state.
What are the Symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome?As well as a constant dry sensation, the patient of this syndrome will be sensitive to light. They may find even indoor electric lighting is too bright and that they feel more comfortable wearing sunglasses. When driving a vehicle at night it may seem as though all other drivers have their high-intensity beams on even when they don’t. It will be impossible to lift the head up on a sunny day because of the pain.
If the person blinks rapidly they will find no tears forming, and will instead feel sharp, stabbing pains, as though there were something in the eye that shouldn’t be there. It will feel hot, uncomfortable, and sometimes very sore. There will be a sensation of grit in the eye and sometimes a flaky texture around the eyelashes.
A feeling of tiredness is often associated with dry eye syndrome. Prolonged use of contact lenses can damage the eye’s protective layer and may result in dryness and difficulty producing tears. The skin around the eyes will feel puffy and taut and women will find it uncomfortable or painful to wear eye makeup because it sits too heavily on the eyelids and lashes.
How is Dry Eye Syndrome Caused?In this modern age it is commonly believed that dry eye syndrome only affects elderly people. This is simply not true. Children are being raised on a diet of fast food, fizzy drinks, and playing computer consoles and watching large hi-tech television screens. As they move into the workplace they have to drive for several hours a week, sometimes more than two hours every day, and all of this takes its toll on the eye. The added dependency on computers means the eye is constantly under immense strain.
Exposure to bright lights, lack of natural minerals and vitamins, and even something as simple as not drinking enough water can exacerbate the condition. And even the simplest reaction, blinking the eye, is forgotten about while the person concentrates on the road ahead, or the document they are reading, or the game they are playing. They forget to blink and the eye becomes dry, and the tear film can no longer cope with the strain.
How do I treat Dry Eye Syndrome?Once diagnosed by a doctor there is currently no known cure for dry eye syndrome. But as with all medical conditions, once a diagnosis is made, it is suddenly easier to deal with. Dry eye syndrome is no different. It can be eased with the aid of simple artificial tears. These are non-medicated eye drops, with no preservatives, that act as temporary lubrication for the eye. They can be readily obtained in a reputable pharmacy. A lubricating ointment can be a great help, especially if applied at night to soak in during sleep. This will stop the eyes from becoming sticky and crusty, and will also help ease dry skin.
It is important to maintain cleanliness around the eyes. They can be bathed in a solution of boiled, cooled water with salt mixed in, which will clean out impurities and foreign bodies. The traditional beauty care method of putting cucumber slices over the eyes can help reduce puffiness and will cool the discomfort, offering temporary relief.
Also the general environment needs to be adjusted. A sufferer of dry eye syndrome must get plenty of sleep to allow the body to heal itself from within. Try to reduce the hours spent in front of a computer screen or television, or at least take regular breaks and remember to blink frequently. Remove the need for air conditioning units where possible, and perhaps place a few humidifiers around the house or workplace. Small houseplants can act as natural humidifiers. And remember to eat good, healthy food and drink lots of water, to keep the body hydrated from within.