The development of dry eyes can have many causes. They include:
- Age – dry eye is a part of the natural aging process. The majority of people over age 65 experience some symptoms of dry eyes.
- Gender – women are more likely to develop dry eyes due to hormonal changes caused by pregnancy, the use of oral contraceptives, and menopause.
- Medications – certain medicines, including antihistamines, decongestants, blood pressure medications and antidepressants, can reduce the amount of tears produced in the eyes.
- Medical conditions – persons with rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and thyroid problems are more likely to have symptoms of dry eyes. Also, problems with inflammation of the eyelids (blepharitis), inflammation of the surfaces of the eye, or the inward or outward turning of eyelids can cause dry eyes to develop.
Environmental conditions – exposure to smoke, wind and dry climates can increase tear evaporation resulting in dry eye symptoms. Failure to blink regularly, such as when staring at a computer screen for long periods of time, can also contribute to drying of the eyes.
Other factors – long term use of contact lenses can be a factor in the development of dry eyes. Refractive eye surgeries, such as LASIK, can cause decreased tear production and dry eyes.
Treatment Options -- Often, the answer is as simple as over-the-counter artificial tears. Sometimes treatment is complex and progress can seem slow. Because inflammation underlies many cases of dry eye, we have to work to reduce the inflammation processes with anti-inflammatory medications, nutrition, and ocular hygiene. Restasis has been shown to be very effective at increasing healthy tear function. Occasionally patients benefit from punctal occlusion (plugging the tear drainage openings) so that they can keep more of their tears on the eye's surface where they are needed.