Why Are My Eyes So Dry All the Time?

by | Mar 6, 2020

Do your eyes constantly feel dry and irritated? You’re not alone.

Dry eyes are among the most common acute conditions we see here at the Sight Eye Clinic—not only because they can be extremely uncomfortable, but also because there are many potential causes and contributing factors.

A mild case of dry eyes that passes quickly may not be much to worry about. However, if your eyes are frequently (or constantly) dry, in a lot of pain, or you’re experiencing symptoms like blurry vision, poor night vision, or trouble wearing your contact lenses, please come see us. Occasionally, dry eyes can be a sign of a more serious problem, or could eventually lead to eye infections or even physical damage to the surface of your eye.

The team at Sight Eye Clinic can help you isolate the precise cause of your dry eyes, so you can take the correct steps to manage your discomfort.

What Causes Dry Eyes?

The simplest explanation for dry eyes is that your eyes aren’t getting the lubrication they need from your basal tears.

Unlike emotional tears (which come out when you’re crying) or reflex tears (which rush out to flush the eyes if they’re irritated by foreign particles or contaminants), basal tears are constantly secreted by your tear ducts throughout the day to keep your cornea lubricated, nourished, and free from dust.

Naturally, the next question would be: “Why aren’t my eyes getting the lubrication they need from my basal tears?”

That’s a much more complicated issue, with many possibilities. However, we can organize them into three broad categories:

  • Your eyes aren’t producing enough tears in the first place.
  • Your tears are evaporating too quickly to keep the eye lubricated.
  • Your tears are of poor quality.

Let’s explore each of these possibilities in greater detail to try to narrow down the list of possible suspects.

Your Eyes Aren’t Producing Enough Tears

The most common risk factor here is simply age. As we get older, our eyes just don’t produce as many tears as they used to. If you are older than 50, or a woman going through menopause, this is likely at least one contributing factor to your dry eyes.

There are also many medical conditions that can interfere with basal tear production. The most common among these are diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. Other conditions linked with dry eyes include Sjogren’s syndrome, thyroid disorder, and lupus.

Reactions to certain medications can also be a factor, usually because they either decrease your body’s natural mucus production ability or alter hormone activity. This includes some fairly common medications provided both by prescription and over the counter, including antihistamines, antidepressants, birth control, and even acne medications. Make sure you bring a list of medications you are currently taking to your appointment so we can determine if they may be contributing to your dry eyes.

Your Tears Are Evaporating Too Quickly

Even if your tear ducts are producing enough tears, it might be that they aren’t staying on the eyes long enough to fully lubricate and clean them.

This could be due to environmental factors—particularly during a cold, dry, and windy West Michigan winter! Wind can easily whisk away tears on your eyes. You’re not necessary safe even if you spend most of your time indoors, either, since indoor heating systems can suck a lot of moisture out of the air. Dry eyes are even known to affect frequent fliers, due to the extremely dry air in pressurized airplane cabins.

One other possibility is that you just aren’t blinking enough. If you find that your eyes tend to dry out when you’re spending time on the computer, reading, driving, or concentrating on other kinds of detail work, this is probably a factor for you!

There could also be a physical issue with your eyelids. Eyelids are designed to help spread tears across the eye, which is why not blinking enough can dry eyes out. They also contain glands that secrete evaporation-resistant lipids.

Your Tears Are of Poor Quality

It’s a common misconception that tears are just made of water, or even water and salt. They are actually made from a very complex mix of different substances, including water, mucous, various proteins, lipids, enzymes, sugar, urea, and more.

Furthermore, different glands in different locations are responsible for producing the different elements that make up the tears. The mucous component, for example, is secreted by the conjunctiva (which covers the whites of the eyes), while oily components are made along the rims of the eyelids, and watery components behind the outer upper eyelids.

If you have a problem with any of these glands (for example, they get clogged), the mix of nutrients and components in your tears will be unbalanced. As a result, they won’t be able to keep your eyes lubricated nearly as well as normal tears.

We Can Help You Manage Your Dry Eyes Successfully

Since there are so many possible contributing factors to dry eyes, and untreated dry eyes can lead to more severe complications down the road, we strongly recommend you come see us if your eyes are bothering you.

In addition to performing a comprehensive eye exam and review of your medical history and current medications, we can also run specific tests to measure your tear production, as well as analyze the quality of your tears. The goal is to pinpoint the exact cause of your dry eyes, so that we can develop effective countermeasures.

In many cases, mild to moderate dry eyes can be managed simply by using artificial tears (eye drops) or warm compresses as needed. Check out one of our recent blogs for more tips and simple strategies that may help you greatly reduce the amount of dry eye irritation you experience in your day-to-day life.

However, sometimes additional underlying causes will also need to be addressed. This can include changes in medications, trying a different type of contact lenses, or sometimes even surgery to correct an eyelid problem.

What your situation may be, you can trust that the ophthalmologists at the Sight Eye Clinic will make an accurate diagnosis and provide you with effective solutions to protect your vision and reduce your daily discomfort!

To schedule with any of our doctors at our clinic in Zeeland, MI, please give us a call today at (616) 772-2020.