What Causes Dry Eyes?

Dry eyes occur when an individual's tears don't lubricate their eyes well enough. There are several reasons tears might be inadequate. Individuals might not produce enough tears, or the tears they do produce might be poor quality. Dry eyes tend to cause discomfort and affected individuals might experience burning or stinging sensations. Some individuals only have dry eyes in certain circumstances. It's common for eyes to dry out after prolonged screen use, riding a bike, sitting in an air-conditioned room, or flying on an airplane. If individuals have chronic dry eyes, some treatments might help ease the discomfort, though they might need to continue using treatments like eye drops indefinitely. If dry eyes are caused by an underlying medical condition, treating that condition can sometimes reduce or eliminate the problem.

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Aging is one of the most common causes of decreased tear production. As individuals get older, their body naturally starts to create fewer tears, which can cause their eyes to become chronically dry. Dry eyes are more commonly found in adults over fifty years old than in other demographics. Women are at a higher risk of developing dry eyes than men, and individuals who use computers frequently are also at a higher risk. Individuals may develop chronic dry eye because their body stops producing as many tears in all situations. It's also possible individuals will experience dry eye more frequently in temporary situations like when faced with moving air. If individuals think they have age-related dry eye, it might be helpful for them to talk to a doctor to make sure there's not an underlying medical condition. Individuals can purchase artificial tears, which help moisten the eyes and relieve moderate dry eye symptoms, over-the-counter. If an individual's symptoms aren't severe, they might not need anything other than artificial tears.

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Katherine MacAulay