Symptoms and Causes of Chronic Dry Eye

Dry Eye (Ocular Surface Disease)

Ocular surface disease, which is often referred to as dry eye, is a very common ocular condition. It can affect anyone, but its prevalence increases with age and it is more common among women. According to analyses from large long-term studies, such as the Physicians’ Health Studies and the Women’s Health Study, in the United States approximately 1.6 million men and 3.2 million women over age 50 experience ocular surface disease (Dry Eye) symptoms.

Symptoms of Dry Eye Disease

Ocular surface disease causes a variety of symptoms, including:

  • A feeling of dryness, irritation or grittiness
  • Burning or stinging
  • Fluctuations in vision
  • Itching
  • Redness
  • A feeling of eye strain or tiredness
  • Excessive tearing (watery eyes)
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Sensitivity to wind
  • Discharge

Dry eye symptoms can range from mild to severe and can cause significant discomfort as well as an inability to wear contact lenses and difficulty performing visual tasks such as reading, watching TV, using a computer or driving. Symptoms may follow a certain pattern during the day. For example, vision may be worse in the morning or later in the day. So what causes types of dry eye?


Aqueous-deficient dry eye

In aqueous-deficient dry eye, the lacrimal glands do not produce an adequate aqueous layer, in many cases because they are affected by inflammation.

This can be caused by:

  • An autoimmune disease, such as Sjögrens Syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis or lupus
  • Some medications, such as oral contraceptives, hormone replacement therapies, antihistamines, sedatives, anti-depressants, isotretinoin for acne, anti-hypertensives, and medications to treat benign prostate hyperplasia
  • Some medical treatments, such as chemotherapy, radiation or corneal surgeries


Evaporative dry eye

In evaporative dry eye, the lipid layer of the tear film is deficient or of poor quality because the meibomian glands are not functioning properly or are blocked, which is known as meibomian gland dysfunction. Common causes of meibomian gland dysfunction are eyelid inflammation known as blepharitis as well as rosacea and other skin disorders. Because evaporative dry eye compromises the lipid layer of the tear film, tears evaporate too quickly, leaving the surface of the eye exposed to discomfort and damage.

The eyelids and the eye’s surface can also play a role in ocular surface disease. If the lids are not working properly, either because of a problem with their structure or because they are inflamed, they cannot perform their crucial functions of spreading the tears across the surface of the eye to evenly lubricate it and remove irritants. When the surface of the eye itself is not smooth and regular, it can also result in problems with tear distribution.

Get Help Today

If dry eye is making you uncomfortable and interfering with your daily life, call us to schedule an evaluation to seek dry eye treatment. We have doctors across Arizona who have the expertise and tools to keep your eyes healthy and give you the relief you need. Visit our practices in the Phoenix Metro area and Flagstaff today.

Schedule Online

Schedule Online

Book Your Next Appointment Entirely Online. 
Find An Appointment That Works For You!

Schedule Online