That irritating sensation of having sand in your eye can be unbearable. Many of our patients describe it as having a tiny fleck of sand in the eye that doesn’t go away, resulting in a scratchy, rough sensation. If you experience that gritty, irritated sensation for extended periods of time, you may have an underlying eye condition, either dry eye syndrome, Blepharitis, Sjogren’s syndrome, or a number of other possible eye conditions. We will examine your eyes and determine the cause of the grittiness in order to provide you with the most appropriate treatment.
What Causes Gritty Eyes?
As mentioned above, gritty eyes can be caused by a number of eye conditions and diseases, such as Dry Eye Syndrome, Sjogren’s syndrome, Blepharitis, or sunburned eyes.
Dry Eye Syndrome (DES)
Dry eye is the most common cause of gritty eyes. A decreased production or quality of tears can cause the eyes to become dry, itchy, and uncomfortable. At times the eyes can even become very watery.
Our tears are composed of 3 components: water, oil, and mucus. You need all three in a perfect balance for healthy tear production. Dry eyes can result when one or more of these components are deficient or out of balance.
Why does DES cause watery eyes? A common form of Dry Eye Syndrome is insufficient oil in your tears, which causes the tears to run down your cheek. The glands that produce oil are called the meibomian glands. These are located inside your eyelids, and their tiny pores supply the essential oils. These glands can become blocked due to inflammation, allergies or pollution.
Other dry eye causes include refractive surgery (i.e. LASIK), aging, hormonal changes, or certain medications.
Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disease that causes damage to the glands responsible for keeping the eyes, mouth and other parts of the body moist and lubricated. Therefore, it is no surprise that dry eyes are a distinctive feature of Sjogren’s syndrome. Other symptoms may include red eyes, contact lens discomfort, blurred vision, a gritty or burning sensation, light sensitivity, dry mouth, fatigue, and joint pain.
Blepharitis is an eye condition caused by a skin disorder or a bacterial infection of the eyelids. A patient with Blepharitis typically experiences swollen eyelids, and red, irritated and itchy eyes. Grittiness is a very common symptom found in those with Blepharitis. This condition is now easily treated, thanks to a range of medication and treatment options.
Did you know that your eyes can get sunburned? When the eyes are over-exposed to UV radiation, the cornea at the front of the eye can develop a sunburn. The first sign of a sunburned eye is when the sclera, the white part of the eye, appears bloodshot. You may notice a sudden sensitivity to light, soreness, blurred vision and feel that gritty sensation in your eyes.
How to Treat Gritty Eyes
The key to treating gritty eyes begins with understanding its cause.
If it’s caused by dry eyes, Dr. Selena Chan may recommend using artificial tears, which lubricate the eyes to relieve the gritty, itchy feeling. Prescription eye drops may be another option, as they increase the eye’s natural tear production. In certain cases, the doctor may prescribe steroids for short-term symptom relief.
If your gritty eye sensation is caused by a mild form Blepharitis, a simple way to alleviate the uncomfortable feeling is to keep your eyelids perpetually clean. Routinely use a warm compress to soften the buildup of crustiness on the eyelids and then gently wash away any eye crust formations. For most cases of Blepharitis, a more effective treatment is now available known as BlephEx. We may also suggest several BlephEx procedures, which effectively clean the eyelids of any bacterial buildup.
For those with sunburned eyes, eye drops provide relief by moisturizing the eye and soothing the burn with the lubricating formula. In more severe cases, anti-inflammatory drops may be prescribed. The gritty feeling from the sunburn often fades on its own within a few days. If you find that the grittiness and discomfort last for more than 2 days, contact The Dry Eye Center at Pacific Rims Optometry immediately.
If you are experiencing gritty eyes and can’t seem to find relief from the discomfort, get in touch and The Dry Eye Center at Pacific Rims Optometry will set up a consultation with Dr. Selena Chan to discuss the specifics of your case. Our mission is to ensure that you enjoy long-term clear and pain-free vision.Our practice serves patients from San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and San Mateo, California and surrounding communities.