With dry eyes, medically known as sicca syndrome, the cornea and the conjunctiva in the eyes are no longer lubricated with enough fluid. Unpleasant, sometimes even painful symptoms develop. Especially in old age, many people suffer intensely from dry eyes.
There are two main reasons for dry eyes
When healthy, the eyes are protected by a complex structured tear film. The lowest layer of mucous lies directly on the cornea and conjunctiva, and ensures that the tear film adheres to the surface of the eye. The middle, watery layer contains nutrients and antigens. Thus, the cornea is nourished and the eye is protected from germs. The upper layer, the so-called lipid layer, contains oil and prevents the layers below from simply flowing away or evaporating. With increasing age, this sensitive system often becomes unbalanced.
There can be two reasons for the eyes to become dry: one is that the composition of the tear film changes. This is particularly a problem when the lacrimal fluid contains too little oil, because tears evaporate more quickly through the lack of a stabilising lipid layer. The latter leads to a paradox: the eyes become watery yet feel dry. On the other hand, the problem can be due to the amount of lacrimal fluid produced. Tear productsion can be reduced as a result of various influences such that sufficient fluid is no longer present in order to keep the eyes evenly moist.
Why eyes dry out in old age
In old age, both causes of dry eyes usually appear together: tear productsion decreases with increasing age and the composition of the tear film changes.
The degree of severity of dry eyes increases with age. This is partly due to the fact that elderly people often suffer from certain illnesses which encourage the development of dry eyes. They include diabetes mellitus or rheumatism. Also, women in the menopause suffer more from dry eyes due to the hormonal change.
Are dry eyes dangerous?
Dry eyes should not be underestimated because they are subject to constant irritation due to the missing protective film. In addition, the eyes are significantly more susceptible to infection as the defence against pathogens is weakened. If the eyes are permanently dry over a long period of time, fine damage can be caused to the surface of the cornea and scarring can occur as a result, which blurs the vision.
For this reason, it is important to treat dry eyes. You eye doctor can find the cause of your dry eyes and start a suitable course of treatment.
Tips when suffering from dry eyes in old age
You can try to improve the symptoms of dry eyes with the following tips:
- Health permitting, drink a lot (water or tea). That way, your eyes will also stay moist from the inside.
- Make sure that the air humidity is high, for example by placing containers of water around the house.
- Try to go easy on your eyes. Reduce computer work, reading and watching television in poor light.
- The regular taking of certain medicines can lead to dry eyes. Beta blockers for high blood pressure or antihistamines for allergies are two examples of such medicines. Speak with your doctor – it may be possible that changing to a different medicine can improve the symptoms of dry eyes.
- You can help your eyes with eye lubricants. Products from the HYLO®-range are preservative-free, phosphate-free and easy to use. Lubricating eye drops like HYLO-COMOD® are excellent for mild to moderate symptoms as well as post-operative use. In contrast, HYLO-GEL® eye drops keep the eyes moist for a particularly long time thanks to their high viscosity.
With some people, their dry eyes improve with time, others need additional lubrication through eye drops on a permanent basis.