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What Causes Dry Eye?

Patients typically fall in two categories: those who have excessive tear evaporation and those who do not produce enough tears. Dry eye can be a temporary or a chronic condition that can have multiple causes. They include:

  • Age - dry eye is a part of the natural aging process. The majority of people over age 40 experience some symptoms of dry eyes due to reduced tear production.

  • Gender - women are more likely to develop dry eyes due to hormonal changes caused by menopause, the use of oral contraceptives, and pregnancy.

  • Medications – certain medicines, including antihistamines, decongestants, pain relievers, blood pressure medications and antidepressants, can reduce the amount of tears produced in the eyes and produce dry eye symptoms.

  • Blepharitis or Meibomian Gland Dysfunction – These are chronic inflammatory diseases of the eyelids which can interrupt the production of tears and lead to evaporative dry eye.

Video Title : Blepharitis

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  • Environmental Conditions - exposure to cigarette smoke, wind, fans, forced hot air heat, and dry climates can increase tear evaporation resulting in dry eye symptoms.

  • Certain Visual Tasks – extended periods of reading or prolonged computer use can lead to excessive tear evaporation from reduced blinking.

  • Medical Conditions – persons with Sjogren's syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, ocular rosacea, diabetes and thyroid problems are more likely to have symptoms of dry eyes.

  • Low Omega 3 Fatty Acid Intake – Can lead to a decreased top lipid layer with faster tear evaporation and secondary dry eye issues.

  • Other Factors – long term use of contact lenses, or a history of refractive eye surgery, such as LASIK, can cause decreased tear production and dry eyes.

Click here to read about the next section, How are Dry Eyes Diagnosed?