Treating Dry Eyes

Close up image of an eye

Dry eyes are experienced by many over 50s, often due to the natural ageing process and as a result of medication associated with other illnesses. In fact, many people will experience dry eyes before they reach 65. The condition is often treatable.

Dry eyes have two main causes. Often, as we grow older we will end up taking more medications. The side effects of these may be that we produce fewer tears, and thus our eyes are no longer receiving the same amount of natural lubrication that they normally would. You should consult your doctor about the possible side effects caused by your medications so that you can be aware of whether or not your dry eyes are caused by something new you’re taking, or by another factor.

The climate, especially in dry or windy climates can be the cause of dry eyes. For instance, if you live near the coast, as many of us Australians do, then it is not unusual to get a gritty, uncomfortable, dry sensation behind your eyelids.

Another cause of dry eyes is simply that there is not enough water in your tears. The body naturally produces tears that contain oil, mucus, and water. These serve to keep the eyes lubricated and healthy. Those suffering from dry-eye syndrome don’t produce enough water in their tears, leading to dry eyes.

Close up image of an eye

The symptoms of dry eyes are fairly easy to identify; burning, irritation, and a gritty or scratchy feeling are common. Blurred vision may also occur, and in severe cases, there may be vision impairment due to damage caused to the surface of the eye. Your optometrist is well equipped to address these issues and will examine your eyes closely, using light and special dyes to check tear production and pathways and look for abnormalities. If the case is severe enough, an optometrist may block a patient’s tear ducts to prevent or slow the draining of tears to ensure that eyes remain lubricated for longer. There are also a number of medications and ointments that can be prescribed, however, most people suffering from dry eyes benefit from over-the-counter eye drops. These can come in liquid or gel forms and are accessible at any supermarket and chemist. Other things you can do to help treat and prevent dry eyes are to protect your eyes from natural irritants by wearing sunglasses on bright and windy days, consume water to prevent dehydration as this can exacerbate dry eyes, and consume foods or supplements containing Omega-3 fatty acids. All of these things are believed to help alleviate the symptoms of dry eyes and make your vision more comfortable in general.

If you suspect that you are suffering from dry eyes, visit your optometrist to formulate a plan of action. You don’t have to put up with the discomfort and there are a great many affordable treatment options available.

Australian Over 50s Living & Lifestyle Guide

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