Do you often have watery, sensitive, or itchy eyes? You might be suffering from dry eyes, a common condition that can affect up to 30% of people and even make you appear older.
According to the latest research, around one in three Brits have the dry eyes condition – but it’s not caused by a lack of tears, rather the quality of the tears and a compromised tear barrier.
While the condition can be irritating, optometrist and founder of Peep Club, Nicola Alexander-Cross, says that it can also make you appear older.
"If you look at a child’s eyes, they have sparkling white iris’ and huge reflections of light," Alexander-Cross explains.
"These are called the Purkinje Images and are often captured in cartoon characters to illustrate how youthful the character is. When it comes to dry eyes, as the eye surface is not well hydrated, eyes can appear distorted to the naked eye as light will not reflect off them, resulting in eyes that appear dull, flat and aged."
What is dry eyes?
Dry eyes is a common condition among adults, and the NHS says it’s more prevalent among people over the age of 50.
It is defined by having a tear dysfunction, which means you are not making enough tears, or your tears dry up too quickly.
Inflammation is thought to be a leading cause of dry eyes, as inflammation of the ocular surface of the eye is related to ageing.
The NHS says that you’re more likely to get dry eyes if you wear contact lenses, spend a large amount of time looking at screens, spend time in air conditioned or heated environments, you smoke or drink alcohol, spend time in wind, cold, dry or dusty places, take certain medicines like antidepressants, or have other conditions such as lupus.
Dry eyes symptoms
Some dry eye symptoms include eyes being:
More watery than normal
Sensitive to light
How to treat dry eyes
Dry eyes is not normally a serious condition, but there are things you can do to mitigate it if you spot any symptoms.
The NHS recommends cleaning your eyelids every day, taking breaks to rest your eyes when using a computer screen, making sure your computer is just below eye level, swapping out contact lenses for glasses, and using a humidifier to stop the air getting dry.
To avoid dry eyes, it says you should stop smoking and drinking alcohol, limit time spent in air conditioned or heated rooms, and limit time in dusty or smoky places. If you suspect a prescribed medication is causing dry eyes, it adds that you shouldn’t stop taking it before speaking to your GP.
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