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Do you often suffer from irritated eyes--as if there is dust or sand in them? Are your eyes often itchy and red, or sensitive to light? Has driving at night or wearing contact lenses become difficult or uncomfortable? If so, you may be one of the millions of Americans today suffering from dry eye disease. Many don't know there is a name for their symptoms, or that treatments are available for them. It's estimated that up to 30 million people in the United States have dry eye — but many don’t know their symptoms have a name, let alone a variety of potential causes and solutions. They also may not know that dry eye can be more than a nuisance, it can actually cause damage to the cornea if left untreated.

Symptoms of Dry Eye

  • Feeling like something is in your eye (foreign body sensation)
  • Gritty or sandy feeling
  • Red eyes
  • Burning or stinging
  • Light Sensitivity
  • Itchy eyes
  • Stringy mucus in or around your eyes
  • Discomfort when wearing contact lenses
  • Watery eyes, which can happen due to irritation from dryness

Causes of Dry Eye

Dry eye has many causes, which often overlap and interact. It frequently occurs with other conditions, is a consequence of environmental triggers, or is caused by medications. Dry eye can be caused or exacerbated by eye surgery, computer use, contact lens use, or low humidity.

Autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, can also cause dry eye. Furthermore, some treatments for these diseases can cause or exacerbate dry eye. Other autoimmune diseases associated with dry eye include scleroderma and thyroid disorders.

Environmental factors such as wind, smoke, and dust can exacerbate the symptoms or signs of dry eye. Certain medications and seasonal allergies also can contribute.

Laser eye surgery may also cause temporary dry eye symptoms.

Another contributing factor? Not blinking enough, which can happen if you work on a computer for long stretches.

Risk Factors

Factors that make it more likely that you'll experience dry eyes include:

  • Being older than 50. Tear production tends to diminish as you get older. Dry eyes are more common in people over 50.
  • Being a woman. A lack of tears is more common in women, especially if they experience hormonal changes due to pregnancy, using birth control pills or menopause.
  • Eating a diet that is low in vitamin A, which is found in liver, carrots and broccoli, or low in omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fish, walnuts and vegetable oils.
  • Wearing contact lenses or having a history of refractive surgery.


If you experience dry eyes often, note the situations that are most likely to cause your symptoms. Then find ways to avoid those situations in order to prevent your dry eyes symptoms. For instance:

  • Avoid air blowing in your eyes. Don't direct hair dryers, car heaters, air conditioners or fans toward your eyes.
  • Consider wearing wraparound sunglasses or other protective eyewear. Safety shields can be added to the tops and sides of eyeglasses to block wind and dry air. Ask about shields when you buy your eyeglasses.
  • Take eye breaks during long tasks. If you're reading or doing another task that requires visual concentration, take periodic eye breaks. Close your eyes for a few minutes. Or blink repeatedly for a few seconds to help spread your tears evenly over your eyes.
  • Stop smoking and avoid smoke. If you smoke, ask your health care provider for help devising a quit-smoking strategy that's most likely to work for you. If you don't smoke, stay away from people who do. Smoke can worsen dry eyes symptoms.
  • Schedule an appointment today. Dry eyes can have several causes, and providers can use a variety of treatments. Call us to schedule an appointment with Dr. Mark to get relief for your dry eyes. We will be happy to determine the best type of dry eye treatment to keep your eyes comfortable and healthy!

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