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Dry Eyes – The facts

On a summer day, on an average, people might be spending around 14 to 16 hours per day in an air-conditioned room, at work or at home to escape the heat outside and some of them might feel dryness, irritation, stickiness, itching, burning and watering from the eyes. They may be developing a problem which is termed as the “Dry eye”, ‘Dry Eye Syndrome’ medically.

Why Dry Eyes?

Adequate quality and quantity of tears in the eyes is essential for smooth feeling and functioning of the eyes.

The Dry eye syndrome is the change in quality or quantity of the three layers of the tear film – Oily (exterior), water/aqueous layer (middle) and protein (inner).

Commonest cause of dry eyes are the air conditioners. The artificial air and temperature change caused by the air conditioners can cause changes and effect from the largest organ of the body, the skin, to the immune system, to the most delicate organ the eyes. The extreme loss of humidity and resultant dryness in the air around us especially in low temperature settings in AC, causes more evaporation from the watery layer of tear film , causing evaporative dry eyes and subsequently, long term exposure to such AC can also alter the lipid production from glands in the eyelids causing both change in quality and quantity of tear film and hence dry eyes.

The tears have antimicrobial functions and in dry eyes, when there is no adequate lubrication, the eyes are also more vulnerable to inflammation and infections which could lead to decrease in vision.

The other important causes of dry eye are:

  • Prolonged staring/usage of computer/mobile phones (Computer Vision Syndrome).
  • The natural aging process, especially menopause problems and hence women are more affected by dry eyes .
  • Certain medical conditions including diabetes, thyroid disorders and Vitamin A deficiency
  • Side effects of certain drugs like antihistamines
  • Laser eye surgery, though symptoms of dry eyes related to this procedure are usually temporary.
  • Tear gland damage from inflammation or radiation
  • Diseases that affect your ability to make tears, like Sjogren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and collagen vascular diseases
  • Problems that don’t allow your eyelids to close the way they should.
  • Air pollution -people in metros like New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai are few times more likely to be diagnosed with dry eye syndrome than the other towns with relatively little air pollution.


Major symptoms of dry eyes:

Symptoms of dry eyes and dry eye syndrome can be Burning ,dryness ,grittiness, Itchiness, Aching sensations, Heaviness , watering from the eyes and blurred vision. The reading speed can slow down for dry eyes and the rate decreases as the severity increases.

Tips to prevent dry eyes:

  • Try to minimize and decrease the number of hours of using air-conditioned rooms, setting of AC temperature around 23 degree C and above is recommended.
  • Avoid sitting with your face facing air conditioners thereby preventing eyes being directly exposed to air from air-conditioners.
  • Place a small open bowl of fresh water in the corner of the room you sit with the air conditioner to maintain humidity of the room, thereby preventing dry skin and dry eyes.
  • Drink enough liquids over a day
  • Frequent conscious blinking when using computer or mobile phones which will help in appropriate distribution of tear film.
  • Have a traditional 7 – 8 hours of sleep which will give adequate rest to eyes.
  • Consider wearing sun glasses or protective eye wears.
  • Reach out to your eye doctor to diagnose the cause for your dry eyes, and follow recommendations and prescriptions from the Eye doctor on eye medications like lubricants, and /or antibiotics and/or anti-inflammatory eye drops and other in-office procedures which could help your body create and secrete more tears and better quality of tears and to decrease eye irritation and inflammation.

If precautionary methods are not followed to prevent Dry eyes, people would also develop eye infections. In case of untreated dry eyes, as severity and duration of dry eyes increase, patients might develop damage to corneal surface (abrasion), corneal ulcer and serious vision problems.

Prevention is better than cure. Get your eyes checked for dry eyes and get them treated appropriately.