When do we speak of «dry eyes»?
On average we blink 20-30 times a minute. Each blink covers the conjunctiva and cornea with a film of liquid. If too little tear fluid is produced or if the tear fluid changes, doctors speak of the «sicca syndrome», or simply «dry eyes».
Not all patients with dry eyes display the same symptoms. Typical symptoms often appear in combinations.
- feeling of something in your eye
- stinging eyes
- itchy eyes
- sensitivity to light
- tired eyes
- swollen eyelids
- red eyes
- blurred vision
- sticky lids, mucus formation
- feeling of pressure on the eyes
- watery eyes
Most common causes
Although it is often external influences that lead to dry eyes, they can also be a side effect of other illnesses affecting the body.
- Production of tear fluid decreases with age
- Hormonal changes
- General disorders such as diabetes, rheumatic diseases, thyroid gland diseases, viral infections
- Red eyes due to dilated blood vessels in the conjunctiva
- Contact lenses: contact lenses vary in how quickly they cause the eye to dry
- Skin diseases
- Medications such as antihistamines
- Dry air from heated or air-conditioned rooms
- Working at a screen
- Vitamin A deficiency
Diagnosis & analysis by an eye doctor
In order to find out the cause of your dry eyes, the first thing you need is a diagnosis from your eye doctor. The doctor will, for example, analyse the tear fluid, the tear break-up time (how quickly the tear film on the eye surface «tears» after blinking), or perform what is known as a Schirmer’s test.
The best thing is to eliminate the cause of the sicca syndrome. However, people who have trouble working at a screen, for example, or who have dry eyes due to an illness, often apply «artificial tears», i.e. eye drops or eye ointments as a first step. These drops keep the tear film intact. Please note: different eye drops are given, depending on the cause and the patient. It’s therefore worth going to the doctor as dry eyes that are left untreated will cause long-term damage to the cornea.
Even if it’s your immediate impulse: rubbing your eyes does no good at all and just makes them more irritated.
- avoid dry air and draughts (car ventilation, air conditioning, wind), let fresh air in now and again
- avoid cigarette smoke
- computer screen work: now and again, take your eyes off the screen and look into the distance. Make a point of blinking, because working at a screen generally slows down the frequency of your blinks. People who suffer from what’s known as ‘office eye syndrome’ do well to close their eyelids briefly from time to time.
The best household remedies
Even if their effects have not been scientifically proven, simple household remedies at least relieve the pain and provide short-term relaxation for many patients with irritated eyes.
- Black tea: Pour hot water over two tea bags, and let them draw briefly. Allow to cool slightly and place on closed eyes for 10 minutes. This should reduce the swelling and have a relaxing effect.
- Cucumber slices: This classic remedy is said to refresh and relax the eye area.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: They are found in oily fish and are also said to help as an ingredient in eye drops. However, whether omega-3 eye drops are better than other drops is disputed.
- Eyelid edge hygiene: Carefully clean the edge of your eyelid with warm water and massage gently with a cotton swab.