Eye dryness is a common, and often chronic, problem affecting older adults. Having this condition can really put a damper on your day. The itchy, gritty feelings are distracting, irritating, and sometimes painful. If you suffer from irritated eyes, you’ve likely noticed that the irritation peaks at night.
But what exactly is this condition? Usually, dry, irritated eyes happen when a person doesn’t have enough of or the proper quality of tears to lubricate, nourish, and moisturize the surface of the eye. Tears are necessary for keeping the front surface of the eye in good health and also helping you see clearly. With every blink of the eyelids, tears spread across the cornea, the outer surface of the eye.
Tears help reduce your risk of eye infection by washing away foreign debris in the eye and keeping the surface of the eyes clear and smooth. When you have excess tears in the eyes, they end up flowing into small drainage ducts in the inside corners of the eyelid. These ducts drain into the back of the nose. You may develop dry, irritated eyes when your drainage and tear production are not in balance.
There are quite a few causes of dry, irritated eyes:
Tears are produced by a number of glands in and around the eyelids. As we age, tear production tends to diminish especially with certain medical conditions or as a side effect of some medications. Environmental factors also play a role in tear production. Wind and dry climates can cause an increase in tear evaporation and therefore a decrease in tear volume. When tear production decreases, or when tears are evaporating too quickly from the eyes, dryness can develop.
Tears are made up of oil, water, and mucus. Each component works to protect and nourish the cornea of the eye. The mucin layer spreads tears evenly over the surface of the eye while the smooth oil layer prevents evaporation of the water layer. Dryness can develop if the tears evaporate too quickly or are not able to spread evenly over the cornea as a result of deficiencies with any of the three tear layers.
If you noticed your dryness is much worse at night or when you wake in the morning, it might be due to the inability to close your eyelids completely while sleeping. This causes the surface of the eye to be exposed overnight and dry out. This condition may be caused by facial palsy, incomplete healing from eyelid surgery, deformity of the eyelid, or just a regular anatomical variance.
People who experience this condition often report feeling irritated, itchy, gritty, or burning eyes; a feeling of debris in their eyes; excess watering; red eyes or pain in the eyes. Other symptoms include:
Although counter-intuitive, watery eyes can be a symptom of this condition. This is because the dryness on the cornea may over-stimulate the production of the watery component of your tears in an effort to protect the eye. This is known as “reflex tearing” and unfortunately these tears do not stay on your eye long enough to correct the condition. Eye dryness can also impact the outcomes of cataract and LASIK surgery, and these surgeries can often contribute to the condition itself.
Gel eye drops, also known as thicker artificial tears, are eye drops that are used to lubricate and help maintain moisture on the outer surface of the eye. These eye drops can help support a healthy ocular surface.
These solutions can replace tears for those with a deficiency. Some eye drops with low viscosity are watery and thin. These drops tend to provide a quick fix, but this is often short-lived causing you to use the drops very frequently.
Gel eye drops, on the other hand, are artificial tears that have a higher viscosity, are thicker and more gel-like, and can provide lasting lubrication. These drops can cause significant blurring of your vision after applying them. This is why gel eye drops may be great for use at nighttime, but they're not ideal for use during the workday or while driving.
There are two categories of gel eye drops:
Eye drops with preservatives come in multidose bottles that contain chemical preservatives. These preservatives prevent the growth of bacteria once the bottle has been opened and allow the drops to last much longer; however, they can irritate the eyes, especially if you have a moderate to severe condition. Eye drops with preservatives may also cause corneal toxicity.
Preservative-free eye drops contain fewer additives and are generally recommended if you wish to use the drops more than four times per day or if you experience moderate to severe dryness. These drops often come in single-dose vials and are usually more expensive. In general, eye doctors agree that it’s better to use preservative-free eye drops whenever possible.
his gel is preservative-free and great for sensitive eyes at any time of day. Refresh Celluvisc Gel is preservative-free and comes in sterile, single-use vials.
Refresh Celluvisc Gel is made of a special, thicker formula that contains several of the same healthy components as natural tears. Check price and purchase Refresh on Amazon.
Blink Gel drops are made with a thick lubricating formula that adapts to your individual eye needs. These drops are specially formulated for enhanced comfort and work to restore the tear film every time you blink. Blink Gel is made with all the advantages of Blink Tears but with a more viscous formula for enhanced staying power.
Designed to restore your tears’ natural balance and maximize hydration, Blink Gel may be a great option for you. Check price and purchase Blink Gel on Amazon.
GenTeal drops contain Polyquad, which is a safe preservative that is gentle on the eyes. GenTeal gel drops ssafeguard the eyes against further irritation and restore comfort after exposure to drying elements like wind and sun. GenTeal gel drops are ideal for use at night by applying right before bed. Check price and purchase GenTeal Gel on Amazon.
hydraSense Night Therapy is designed for use at bedtime and features a gel-drop solution that has a thicker consistency for lasting support of a healthy ocular surface. The drops contain sodium hyaluronate to lubricate and hydrate the eyes. Check price and purchase HydraSense on Amazon.
Systane gel eye drops have a thick formulation made to coat the eye with a powerful layer of tears. Don’t let dryness keep you up at night any longer – Systane eye drops will work while you sleep to help support healthy eyes. Check price and purchase Systane on Amazon.
The Bausch & Lomb Liposic Ophthalmic Gel is a highly viscous, clear gel that quickly spreads over the conjunctiva and cornea, without leaving streaks on the eye. The gel adds moisture to the ocular surface and is best used for persistent dryness at nighttime but can also be used for mild to severe conditions. Liposic Ophthalmic Gel is formulated to replicate all three layers of the tear film and even has a pH of 7.4, which is similar to that of natural tears. This gel is available in Canada, but not in the US. Check price and purchase Bausch & Lomb on Amazon.
HYLO Gel was developed specifically for patients with more severe and persistent dryness. The gel drops offer more intensive lubrication of the ocular surface. HYLO Gel does not easily rinse off due to its special formulation that results in a stable, long-lasting lubricating film on the eye.
HYLO Gel eye drops are preservative-free and phosphate-free, making them easier to tolerate for those with sensitive eyes. HYLO Gel is also formulated with the sodium salt of hyaluronic acid, which is naturally found in the eye and other parts of the body. You may also use HYLO Gel while wearing hard or soft contact lenses if your eye doctor says it’s safe. Check price and purchase HYLO on Amazon.
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