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Dry Eye and High Cholesterol

Views: 7077
Reviewed by Nymark M, PhD on February 11, 2016

If you are one of the many people who suffer from the uncomfortable symptoms associated with dry eye syndrome, including irritation, blurred vision, itching, or sensitivity to light, then you may find that you can acquire some relief from simply changing your everyday habits. Adjusting your lifestyle so as to ensure that you do as much as possible to encourage not only a healthy body, but healthy eyes too, can be a great way to reduce your chances of developing serious ocular conditions in later life.

Everyday Habits that Contribute to Dry Eye

Over the years, researchers have found that a regular habit of smoking can help to worsen the uncomfortable aspects of dry eye, while consuming caffeine may actually be responsible for reducing the amount of symptoms that you experience. The findings have been published for this study in the Archives of Ophthalmology. Dry eye is by far one of the most common complaints among middle-aged and older adults. Indeed, more than 10 million Americans are currently suffering from symptoms of dry eye, yet little is known about why people currently develop the condition.

Many experts and health gurus suggest that dry eye is a frustrating disease for everyone involved, because it is such a chronic condition. Anything that may be able to uncover the reason why dry eye happens so regularly could help to develop better treatments for patients and sufferers. In the latest study, which considered a sample of no less than 3,703 people, the researchers found that numerous factors can actually be associated with the development of dry eye syndrome. What’s more, a large majority of these factors can actually be controlled. The test revealed that people who smoked had a nearly two times larger risk of suffering from dry eye disease.

On the other hand, the same test results found that people who consumed a higher level of HDL (good) cholesterol and caffeine were generally less likely to have dry eye syndrome. These findings are brand new to the world of eye health. While improving the amount of HDL cholesterol you consume each day is a good way to improve your overall health regardless of the impact it has on your vision, most researchers suggest that HDL level increases cannot be recommended entirely for the purpose of reducing dry-eye, as the current study cannot provide any reasons for the associations provided.

High Cholesterol Could Lead to Dry Eyes

Looking at cholesterol from the other end of the scale (LDL bad cholesterol), a new study from South Korea has indicated that women who have higher cholesterol levels may actually be more susceptible to dry eye syndrome. The study suggested that test subjects with a high reading for cholesterol were about 1.77 times more likely to develop dry eye syndrome than the rest of the general population.

According to the researchers, these results support their theory that a high amount of cholesterol in the blood could be a factor in causing the Meibomian glands of the eyes to clog. When the Meibomian glands cannot work as they should, the eyes cannot achieve the right amount of lubrication, leading to dry eye syndrome. In fact, many people suffering from dry eye syndrome today are exposed to the disease as a result of problems with the Meibomian glands.

As the name “dry eye syndrome” suggests, we have long known that dry eyes are caused by insufficient lubrication on the eye surface. However, we frequently find that a wide range of different factors can contribute to this syndrome from pollution to certain weather conditions. However, this is the first time that a study has clearly indicated a relationship between the presence of high cholesterol and dry eye syndrome. In the future, you may find that many doctors are recommending measures to lower your cholesterol if you are suffering from symptoms of dry eye.

High Cholesterol Impacts the Vision in Many Ways

Most people agree that healthy eyesight is a vital part of enjoying an active and healthy lifestyle. However, many people are regularly affected by diseases that can have an impact on the health and abilities of their eyes. For example, most people know that high levels of blood pressure and cholesterol can be damaging to their health, yet many people aren’t aware that cholesterol can also play a part when it comes to eye health.

High cholesterol can lead to etinal vein occlusion, which harms the functioning of various parts of the eye, including:

  • The retina – the lining at the back of the eye responsible for sensing light
  • The vitreous – the jelly-like fluid filling up the back of an eye
  • The lens – located towards the front of the eye and used to focus light on the retina
  • The optic nerve – the main nerve connecting the eye to the brain

The reason that cholesterol can play a big role in eye health, is that eyes contain a number of arteries. Just as too much cholesterol can build up on the walls of blood vessels, resulting in the formation of thick plaques, retinal vein occlusion takes place when the blood flowing into and away from the eye experiences signs of a blockage. The rate at which blood flows through the vessels keeps coming down and ultimately leads to a blood clot. If the central retina artery is blocked by cholesterol, the connection between the brain and the optic nerve can also become blocked, leading to loss of sight.

Fighting Back Against Dry Eyes

While dry eye syndrome may not be the most dangerous result of cholesterol buildup in patients, it’s worth noting that the dry eye condition can be dangerous by itself. Left without proper treatment, dry eyes can frequently cause other problems. Besides being responsible for lubricating the eye for comfort, the tear film also helps to provide nourishment, fight back against infection, and create a smooth corneal surface for keeping the vision clear.

Experts suggest that it is crucial for health providers to continue evaluating and treating the underlying causes of dryness. Not only is fighting back against dry eye syndrome important for comfort, but it’s also essential for your eye’s health. Treatment for dry eye might include the use of artificial tears, as well as taking measures to lower your cholesterol levels, drinking plenty of water, and blinking frequently.

At this time, it is up to patients to keep an eye on the symptoms they experience associated with dry eye syndrome, and up to researchers to continue looking into the connection that may exist between cholesterol and dry eye.

Resources and References:

Higher cholesterol levels may worsen dry eye syndrome in women – Study indicating the link between dry eyes and cholesterol levels. (The Korea Times)

Lifestyle Changes May Prevent Dry Eye Syndrome – Basic information about how lifestyles can contribute to dry eye syndrome. (WebMD)

Facts About Dry Eye– Facts and information about dry eye. (National Eye Institute)