Understanding Dry Eye Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Understanding Dry Eye Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

According to recent research, dry eye syndrome (DES) affects more than 10% of people under 40 and almost 70% of patients over 50. Its causes can differ but are often linked to modern lifestyles and environmental factors, like climate, computers, air conditioning, and cigarette smoke.

As technological advancements and digitalisation continue to reshape the way we work and live, dry eye syndrome has become an increasingly concerning issue. More and more people include eye drops for dry eyes in their daily routines. But is it a good solution, and what proactive steps should you take to protect your eye health? Let’s delve deeper into the various causes behind dry eye syndrome and available treatment options.

What Is Dry Eye Syndrome?

For the human eye to fully function, its surface must be constantly moistened. To achieve this, the lacrimal glands produce a tear film. It protects the eyeball from drying out and penetration by pathogenic microbes, nourishes it, and lubricates the eyelid. When a person blinks, the film is evenly distributed over the eye’s surface.

If, for some reason, the tear glands fail to produce an adequate amount of tear fluid or its quality is impaired, the protective film on the conjunctiva and cornea dries out, leaving them vulnerable to dust and dirt. It leads to irritation of the mucous membrane, accompanied by redness and a burning sensation – a discomforting condition known as dry eye syndrome.

Possible Causes of Dry Eye Syndrome

Dry eye syndrome can be caused by a variety of factors:

  • Climatic conditions (dryness, heat, strong wind, high mountains)
  • Smoke (including tobacco), smog, air pollution
  • Dry air in the room where computers are working, air conditioners or heaters are turned on
  • Working on a computer, watching TV
  • Wearing contact lenses
  • Long-term use of certain medications (antidepressants, tranquilisers, hormonal contraceptives, and blood pressure medications)
  • Vitamin deficiency (especially after restrictive diets)
  • General diseases of the body (Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, thyroid problems, hormonal changes, rheumatic processes, allergic diseases)
  • Genetics (a genetic predisposition determines the amount of tear fluid, so dry eye syndrome is sometimes hereditary)

Small Discomforts, Yet Important Symptoms

Typically, people do not think about any serious health problems when feeling discomfort in their eyes. They find a lot of explanations for this: they didn’t get enough sleep, were tired, stared at the screen too much, and so on. Meanwhile, without proper treatment, the condition is progressing.

One of the first manifestations of DES is the sensation of a mote in the eye. Then there is burning, itching, and increased sensitivity to smoke and wind. You may start to feel like “sand was poured into the eyes.” Eyelids redden and swell. Then photophobia is added.

In some cases, dry eye syndrome may be accompanied by lacrimation (excessive tearing). By producing more tears, the body tries to fight the problem. However, the lubricating properties of those “tears” are insufficient. They do not eliminate dryness and irritation. A person constantly has a desire to rub their eye, but this only worsens the condition. A little relief may come if they blink or close their eyes often. But it becomes unbearable after sitting for a long time in front of a computer or TV, reading, or being exposed to a working air conditioner or heater.

Getting The Diagnosis

In general, dry eye syndrome is easily diagnosed based on symptoms presented by the patient. But the doctor may run some additional exams to confirm the diagnosis.

The Schirmer test is a simple but sure way to diagnose dry eye syndrome. It is carried out as follows:

  1. A thin strip of filter paper is inserted behind the lower eyelid.
  2. It is gradually saturated with tear fluid.
  3. The speed of wetting the paper evaluates the severity of DES.

Another diagnostic method is to examine the eye with a slit lamp (biomicroscopy) using a special colouring agent (fluorescein). With pathological dryness of the eye, gaps in the thickness of the tear film become visible. It indicates a deterioration in the quality of the lacrimal fluid and confirms the diagnosis.

Eye Drops or Gel for Treatment?

Treatment of dry eye syndrome is a long and highly individual process. First of all, you need to find out why there was dryness in the eye. If DES is a consequence of any disease, it should be addressed accordingly. If your own tear is not enough to moisturise the eye, or its quality has deteriorated, and it cannot protect the eye from adverse effects, replacement therapy may be performed. The doctor can prescribe eye drops for dry eyes, which resemble tear fluid in composition.

Such artificial tears are widely used for DES treatment, creating a protective film on the eye’s surface. Some of them are liquid and do not last long. Others are thicker in the form of gels, so they stay on the surface longer. However, only a doctor can determine the right option for you. The frequency of administration is also determined individually.

It is best to use artificial tears without preservatives, as they are more soothing to the eyes and contain fewer additives. Do not use eye drops that relieve the redness of the eyes. They constrict the conjunctival vessels, don’t provide sufficient wetting properties and may only exacerbate the problem.

Simple But Effective Ways to Support Your Eye Health

If you suffer from dry eye syndrome, here are some tips to help you manage it:

  • Drink 8-10 glasses of fluid per day. It will provide the body with the necessary amount of moisture and accelerate the removal of toxins.
  • Blink more often, especially when reading or watching TV.
  • Don’t rub your eyes – it increases irritation.
  • Keep your workplace clean and take a break from screens every 40-45 minutes.
  • Do gymnastics for the eyes and neck.
  • Wash your eyes with chamomile or calendula if you are not allergic to these components.
  • Include vegetable oils in your diet, as well as sea plants.
  • Protect your eyes from the sun with sunglasses, wide-brimmed hats and caps.
  • Use air humidifiers.
  • Avoid smoke and wind exposure.

Taking those precautions may also help prevent dry eye syndrome.


Dry eye syndrome can lead to serious vision problems, including permanent vision impairment. Therefore, it must be detected and treated in time. And the best thing is to prevent DES from ever developing. Furthermore, it’s crucial to consult a trusted cataract surgeon, as they can provide expert guidance on how dry eye syndrome may affect cataract evaluations and surgical outcomes, ensuring a holistic approach to your eye health.If you feel irritating symptoms, discomfort, dryness, or tired eyes, please seek medical attention immediately. Do not use eye drops for self-medication – only a doctor can determine the most appropriate treatment for your case.