Why do my eyes feel gritty and irritated?

  • by Sam

What is dry eye disease?

Dry Eye Disease is a common condition that occurs when your eyes don’t make enough tears or your tears evaporate too quickly. This can lead to your eyes drying out, becoming inflamed (red and swollen) and irritated.

What causes Dry Eye Disease?

The surface of your eye is covered by a tear film, and operates best when there is a thin layer of oil sealing your eyelid to your eye which prevents the excessive evaporation of your tears. This oil comes from the Meibomian Glands in your eyelids, which can quickly become blocked when the oils thicken from a smooth to a more buttery consistency - a common symptom of Dry Eye Disease.

When there is too little water being produced at particular points of your tear film, or if there is excessive evaporation, the water in your eye can become very salty. This causes grittiness and can trigger the painful sensation often felt with Dry Eye Disease. 

If your tear film isn’t as strong as it should be then there may be damage to the underlying surface of your eye. Think of it like a river bed - when it’s dry, the mud develops numerous small cracks over the surface - each of these breaks can expose the underlying nerves and cause the same gritty, irritating sensation as having a bit of sand or salt in your eye.

How can my eye be watery if I have dry eye disease?

Your body initially responds to the increased saltiness or damage to the surface of your eye by releasing more water onto it. As the tear film is primarily a gel layer, all this extra liquid can leave you with a watery eye, but your tear film remains dry as the water is not gel enough in consistency. As a result, it simply runs over the dry patches on your tear film and out of your eye, leaving the problematic areas  to remain.

How to treat dry eye, grittiness and irritation in three simple steps

The good news is that you can ease and treat these symptoms at home. You might find that a gentle massage of the eyelids, following a hot compress (you can do this by using The Eye Doctor and following the heating and application instructions) will help with loosening any blockage in the glands in the eyelids which prevents your eye’s natural lubrication. Once you’ve applied the compress and completed a massage of the lid, you should start to feel some natural moisture returning. Be gentle and of course, if your symptoms worsen or progress, it might be time to speak to an eye health specialist or your GP.

For more information, check out our Eye Doctor product pages.

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