Dry eyes? Wear sunglasses even on overcast and cold days!

If you find yourself regularly wiping away tears, you might not think you can blame dry eyes – but it’s the most likely cause, and the remedy may be as simple as wearing sunglasses, even by cloudy and wintry weather.

Dry eye, which is already a common problem affecting up to 30% of people over the age of 50, is becoming increasingly common. There has been a 19% increase in the number of dry eye diagnoses over the past 12 months, according to a recent survey of 2,000 people by specialist eye care company Thea UK.

Along with a gritty feeling, dry eyes — counterintuitively — lead to overproduction of tears, which is the body’s way of trying to rehydrate the surface of the eye.

And while for some it’s just mild irritation, severe cases can lead to impaired vision and irreversible eye damage, says Alex Ionides, consultant ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London.

Dry eye, which is already a common problem affecting up to 30% of people over the age of 50, is becoming increasingly common.  There has been a 19% increase in the number of dry eye diagnoses over the past 12 months, according to a recent survey of 2,000 people by specialist eye care company Thea UK.

Dry eye, which is already a common problem affecting up to 30% of people over the age of 50, is becoming increasingly common. There has been a 19% increase in the number of dry eye diagnoses over the past 12 months, according to a recent survey of 2,000 people by specialist eye care company Thea UK.

Dry eyes become more common with age because

Dry eyes become more common with age because “from the age of 50, the Meibomian glands do not produce enough oily secretion to completely cover the cornea, which means that the tears are not sealed and have more likely to evaporate,” says Ionides

The eyes are generally lubricated by the tear film: the first layer is made up of what Mr. Ionides likens to a “transparent slime, which holds the cornea [the clear outer surface of the eye] bathed in liquid.

Above this mucous “mud” is a watery layer of tears. This has antibacterial properties and helps keep the cornea healthy. On top of this is the upper oily layer produced by the Meibomian glands (small glands in the eyelids), which seal in moisture, preventing it from evaporating.

Dry eyes become more common with age because “from the age of 50, the Meibomian glands no longer produce enough oily secretion to completely cover the cornea, which means that the tears are not sealed and have more likely to evaporate,” says Ionides.

People who have had laser eye surgery can also develop dry eyes because the procedure can reduce sensitivity to nerves on the surface of the eye that would normally feel the need to produce tears.

People who have had laser eye surgery can also develop dry eyes because the procedure can reduce sensitivity to nerves on the surface of the eye that would normally feel the need to produce tears.

The condition is also common during menopause, adds Nigel Kirkpatrick, consultant ophthalmologist at Newmedica, a chain of NHS and private eye clinics.

“The drop in estrogen causes the mucous membranes to dry out and the glands produce less important hydrating fluids. It can leave your eyes rough, inflamed and red.

But why are dry eyes becoming more and more common? This is partly due to the increased use of air conditioning and central heating (which also increase evaporation) and longer and longer periods of time spent staring at screens, as we blink less while doing so, and blinking spreads moisture around the surface of the body. eye.

But increased contact lens use is also to blame, as it can cause more of your tear film to evaporate. “Contact lenses float semi-submerged in the tear film, which can upset careful water balance, leading to increased evaporation,” says Ionides.

People who have had laser eye surgery can also develop dry eyes because the procedure can reduce sensitivity to nerves on the surface of the eye that would normally feel the need to produce tears.

Dry eyes can also affect vision. “The tear film is the first surface light hits when it enters the eye,” says Ionides. “If it’s poor quality, the image can be blurry, and if the cornea isn’t bathed in adequate tears, it can become uncomfortable and sensitive to light.”

“Without treatment, severe dry eye can lead to inflammation of the tissues around the eye, abrasion of the corneal surface, and corneal ulcers,” says Kirkpatrick. “In extreme cases, this can lead to loss of vision.”

The eyes are generally lubricated by the tear film: the first layer is made up of what Mr. Ionides likens to a

The eyes are generally lubricated by the tear film: the first layer is made up of what Mr. Ionides likens to a “transparent slime, which holds the cornea [the clear outer surface of the eye] bathed in liquid. Above this mucous “mud” is a watery layer of tears. This has antibacterial properties and helps keep the cornea healthy. On top of this is the upper oily layer produced by the Meibomian glands (tiny glands in the eyelids), which seal in moisture, preventing it from evaporating.

Mild cases may respond well to a warm flannel over the eyes. “The heat melts the oily secretions in the meibomian glands, making them more watery, and gently massaging your eyes will help empty the contents of the glands onto the cornea to replenish the outer oily layer,” says Ionides.

And putting on a pair of sunglasses when you go out on a cold, windy day (whether the sun is shining or not) will limit the evaporation of your tears.

Sunglasses, like eyeglasses, create a pocket of warm, humid air in front of the eyes, protecting them from the evaporative impact of a breeze.

And don’t forget to blink. “During periods of intense concentration, the eyes subconsciously avoid blinking to avoid losing sight of the complex task at hand,” says Ionides. “But it gives the tears more time to evaporate.”

Taking a break from contact lens wear also helps if you have dry eyes, says Ionides.

“If you stop wearing them for about a week, dry eye symptoms often go away as the tear film returns to its normal formulation and structure.”

As for eye drops, most contain the chemicals polyethylene glycol and propylene glycol, which coat the eye and prevent tear film evaporation.

Optometrists recommend choosing those that are “preservative-free” to avoid any chemicals that might irritate already irritated eyes.

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