Understanding Dry Eye Syndrome and Aging

December 1st, 2021
dry eye syndrome and aging

Have you noticed more dry eye symptoms as you get older? You’re not the only one. 30% of adults over 50 deal with dry eye syndrome. Keep reading to learn why you’re more likely to experience eye changes as you get older and what you can do to alleviate your discomfort.

What is Dry Eye Syndrome?

Dry eye syndrome describes an insufficient quantity or poor quality tears. Tears are not just responsible for lubricating the eyes. They also wash away foreign items, keep the surface smooth and clear, and reduce your risk for eye infection. So, they must remain healthy.

Tears consist of three crucial elements:

  • Water—This layer wets the eye.
  • Mucus—This component spreads the fluid evenly across the eye’s surface.
  • Oil—The oil layer prevents tears from evaporating too quickly.

A problem with any of these components leads to an imbalance in the tear film and dry eye symptoms. Without a sufficient tear film, you begin to experience an array of symptoms that can make your day uncomfortable:

  • Redness
  • Burning
  • Itching
  • Watering
  • Blurry vision
  • Soreness
  • Inflammation
  • The feeling that something is in the eye

How does aging cause dry eye?

Dry eyes may have causes not associated with aging, like wind, dry climate, or temporary side effects of cataract and LASIK surgery. However, after 50, your chances of chronic dry eye or DES increase greatly for a few reasons.

Lacrimal Gland — As you get older, the lacrimal gland – responsible for supplying the water layer of tears – begins to produce and secrete less fluid.

Meibomian Gland — This gland is responsible for the lipids and oil in tears to prevent evaporation. It begins to degenerate and becomes more easily clogged, leading to poor-quality tears as you get older.

Medications/Conditions — Certain conditions and their related medications, such as hypertension, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and Parkinson’s disease, have dry eye as a side effect. These conditions tend to become more likely as you get older.

Menopause — More than 60% of perimenopausal and menopausal women deal with dry eye. 38% of women undergoing hormone replacement therapy in post-menopause also struggle with this symptom. The hormonal changes during this time of life affect the functioning of the lacrimal and Meibomian glands.

Treatment of Dry Eye

Depending on the cause and severity of your dry eye symptoms, our eye doctors in greater Dallas will prescribe an appropriate treatment option, ranging from lifestyle changes to quick in-office procedures:

  • Increased hydration — Drinking 8 glasses of water can help your body produce the fluids it needs for tears
  • Humidifier — Increased humidity means more moisturized eyes. Not to mention, it can be good for your skin and respiratory system.
  • Decreased screen time — Staring at a screen decreases how often you blink and dries out your eyes. Try decreasing screen time to reduce the severity of your symptoms.
  • Over-the-counter options — Artificial tears, gels, and ointments can temporarily relieve and re-moisturize the eyes.
  • Medications – There are medications drops and gels to help decrease inflammation and improve tear production.
  • Blocking drainage ducts — The eye doctors in greater Dallas may insert silicone or gel plugs in the drainage ducts to keep tears in the eyes longer.
  • Dry eye procedures: Different procedures such as meibomian gland expression and therapeutic membranes can be used in severe dry eye syndrome.
  • Surgery—If you do not respond to any treatments, you may need surgery to close the drainage ducts in your eyes permanently.

At Kleiman Evangelista Eye Centers, we want you to see clearly and comfortably at all stages. If you are struggling with persistent dry eye symptoms, schedule an appointment with the experts today to learn your options!