Dry eye symptoms are caused by a wide range of issues, including chronic health diseases, hormonal changes, allergies, and aging, as well as environmental conditions.
Meibomian Gland Dysfunction
Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD) is the most common cause of dry eye syndrome, so common in fact that many people may not even realize they are inflicted. Eyes are constructed of three layers that create their fluid film: meibum, water, and mucus. This eye condition occurs when the meibomian glands fail to make enough quality oil to prevent the eye’s surface from drying out. MGD is caused by a variety of factors, including clogged glands affecting the amount or quality of the oil, aging, ethnicity, high cholesterol, allergies, a damaged cornea or eyelid, and autoimmune diseases. In addition, external factors like medication, especially those that affect hormones, may also lead to meibomian gland dysfunction. The dry eye symptoms are further exacerbated by long periods staring at a computer screen or being in a very dry environment.
Blepharitis is distinguished by chronic inflammation of the eyelids and typically caused by a bacterial infection or untreated MGD, which can lead to bacterial growth. This bacteria may spread to the eyes from other skin inflammatory conditions, such as dandruff. The bacteria settle into the eyelash base or eyelid and, without regular hygenic cleaning, lead to growth and build-up. Blepharitis symptoms include red and itchy eyelids and, of course, dry eye syndrome.
Contact Lens Intolerance
Contact Lens Intolerance (CLI) is the term assigned to any person who experiences pain while wearing contact lenses. The causes range from chronic conditions to the wearer consistently leaving contacts in longer than recommended or not cleaning them properly between wearing. CLI can be temporary and remedied, or it can become so chronic that the inflicted person is unable to wear contacts any longer.
Dry Eyes While Flying
Regardless if a person already suffers from a biological condition above, even the healthiest person can experience this discomfort in environmental situations. Dry eye discomfort can be exacerbated by the low humidity, pressure-controlled air in airplanes, as the lack of humidity causes further dehydration (yes, dehydration affects eyes, too!). This is especially true for the people that immediately blast the overhead air conditioner vent, as the constant direct blowing dries anything below it.
High Altitude And Dry Eyes
In a 2008 study published by the National Institutes of Health, participants stationed in a high altitude region were monitored against another group of participants stationed in a low altitude location. Their findings stated that 20 percent of those at high altitude experienced dry eye symptoms, compared to 9 percent located at low altitude. This occurs because high altitude areas contain less oxygen and pressure, leading to dry, “thin” air quality.
Dry Eye Treatment