EyeWise Vision Clinic

Know What Causes Dry Eyes After Cataract Surgery

When considering cataract surgery, understanding both the benefits and the potential side effects of the procedure is important. While working with a skilled cataract surgeon can help with addressing the potential complications, some side effects may still occur due to various factors, like age, lifestyle, and current condition.

One of the most frequent side effects of cataract surgery is dry eye syndrome, a condition marked by insufficient tear production or excessive tear evaporation. This issue can lead to discomfort and potentially impact your vision quality. While dry eye syndrome is often temporary following cataract surgery, it can become chronic in some cases.

Therefore, to prevent the potential development of or manage dry eyes after cataract surgery, gaining a thorough understanding of the condition is crucial.

Why Do Dry Eyes Develop After Cataract Surgery?

According to a study examining the prevalence and characteristics of dry eye disease following cataract surgery, several factors may contribute to the development of this condition. 

The study highlights that age, gender, and lifestyle play significant roles in the risk of experiencing dry eye symptoms post-surgery. Notably, it suggests that older individuals, specifically those 60 years and above, and women have an increased risk of developing dry eye conditions after cataract surgery. 

Another significant contributor to dry eye symptoms is prolonged exposure to screens such as computer screens. This is particularly relevant in the post-operative period, where the use of digital devices could exacerbate the condition, intensifying discomfort and potentially prolonging recovery.

Additionally, research on the long-term effects of cataract surgery on tear film parameters has found that cataract surgery could eventually affect how the eye produces tears. This is because cataract surgery often involves corneal denervation, which could cause the reduction of corneal sensitivity. And having reduced sensation in the cornea can impact the lacrimal glands’ ability to produce tears, potentially leading to dry eye syndrome. 

It is also worth noting that frequent post-op eyedrops in the weeks following cataract surgery are believed to be the primary cause of dry eyes. While these eyedrops are essential for preventing infection and aiding with healing, they can disrupt the natural balance of tears in the eyes, leading to dryness. 

How Do I Know I Have Dry Eyes Syndrome After My Cataract Surgery?

Keep an eye out for these dry eye symptoms after your cataract surgery:

  • Watery Eyes: Ironically, dry eyes can cause eyes to water excessively as the body attempts to compensate for dryness.
  • Gritty Feeling: It may feel as if there is sand in the eyes.
  • Sensation of Something Stuck in the Eye: This discomfort can be persistent.
  • Intermittent Sharp Pain: Occasional acute pain can occur, signalling severe dryness.

How to Manage Dry Eyes After Cataract Surgery

Proper post-cataract surgery care is crucial to minimise the risk of dry eye symptoms and help with the healing process. Consider these post-operative care practices to help address dry eye symptoms:

1. Regular Use of Prescribed Medication

Your ophthalmologist will typically prescribe eye drops to help with your healing. One of the eyedrops you will be prescribed is antibiotic eyedrops, which will be recommended to you a few days before your surgery and continued for one to two weeks for post-operative eye care. 

While these antibiotic eyedrops help manage infections and inflammations after an operation, it is worth noting that they could cause dry eye symptoms in some patients. This is because most of these eyedrops are preservative-free and have properties that can cause dryness in the eyes. However, dry eye symptoms typically subside once eye drops are discontinued after 2 to 3 weeks. As such, you should follow the prescribed dosage and schedule for these drops closely, as deviating from the prescribed routine can lead to further eye complications.

2. Implementing Environmental Controls

Environmental factors can significantly impact the severity and persistence of dry eye symptoms. To create a more eye-friendly environment:

  • Maintain Humidity: If air conditioners are used at home, this tends to decrease humidity in the air, which can exacerbate dry eye symptoms. Therefore, using a humidifier can help with the moisture levels in the air, keeping your eyes more comfortable.
  • Avoid Direct Air: Excessive air movement from fans, air conditioners, and heaters could lead to tear evaporation and dry out your eyes. That’s why, as much as possible, you should avoid direct air contact with your eyes.
  • Shield Your Eyes: Wearing sunglasses or protective eyewear, especially in windy or dusty conditions, can help protect your eyes from irritants that exacerbate dry eye symptoms.

3. Dietary and Lifestyle Adjustments

Incorporating certain dietary and lifestyle changes can also help support eye health and potentially reduce the risk of developing some of the aforementioned dry eye symptoms:

  • Increase Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Research indicates that incorporating foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts, into your diet can help with managing dry eye symptoms, including inflammation and tear evaporation. Omega-3 fatty acids and their derivatives also play a crucial role in supporting tear production and may also aid in nerve regeneration post-surgery, further promoting ocular health and comfort.
  • Manage Screen Time: If you frequently use computers or other screens, it’s important to implement the 20-20-20 rule to mitigate eye strain and promote healthy blinking: every 20 minutes, take a break to look at an object 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. This practice can help relax the eye muscles and encourage regular blinking, which is crucial for reducing the risk of dry eye symptoms either developing or worsening.

Monitor Your Condition and Adhere to Your Follow-Up Appointments

Regularly monitoring your eye health through follow-up appointments with your eye clinic is crucial throughout the recovery phase. And if you notice that your symptoms of dry eyes persist or worsen, it is important to inform your doctor promptly. They can then adjust your recovery plan or devise a specific dry eye syndrome treatment plan tailored to your needs. 

When you actively participate in your post-cataract surgery care, you can not only manage discomfort associated with your symptoms but also potentially optimise the overall outcomes of your cataract surgery. 

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