Dry eyes, a common disorder that increased with the pandemic

Dry eyes, a common disorder that increased with the pandemic

“How can I have dry eyes if I don’t stop crying.” Jacobo García Queiruga, an optician-optometrist in Galicia, smiles when any of his clients to whom he insinuates that, due to the symptoms they tell him, he could suffer from this disorder respond like this. He cannot diagnose it because he is not qualified, but he does recommend going to the ophthalmologist to confirm his suspicions. And it will be strange that that person does not return to the store to thank him because, in fact, he suffers from dry eye even though his eyes water.

After the pandemic, eye problems have increased. García Queiruga sees it daily and also studies it as a researcher on the GI-2092 team led by Eva Yebra Pimentel at the University of Santiago de Compostela. One of the most common is this lack of adequate lubrication of our eyeballs. “The symptoms that people report are itching, burning, stinging, like they have grit in their eyes, or that they notice the air a lot…”, says the teacher, who is also a teacher.

The amount


of tears per year is the minimum our eyes generate, according to the Academy of Ophthalmology. The maximum is usually around 110. As we age, we lose this ability. Hormonal changes during pregnancy, menopause and andropause also influence.

– And why does it happen to us?

– It is a multifactorial disease where what occurs is an alteration of the normal function of the eye or tears, which is what protects it.

It can occur “due to deficiency,” which is when not enough tears are produced. Or, as in the case with which we started the report, because the ones we generate evaporate very quickly, that is, because they are of poor quality. “These are half of the cases I encounter,” says García Queiruga.

Tears are more than water. They are also made up of fat and proteins. When the formula is not balanced, problems arise. If there is too much aqueous component, they dissipate too quickly and do not lubricate the cornea well, “the tissue with the most nerves in the entire body.” And if the fat that we produce in the meibornium glands, which are on the edge of the eyelid, is very dense, it will not spread well over the entire surface either. The result in any case is this discomfort that affects between 5% and 50% of the world’s population and three out of ten people over 50 years of age, especially women.

Types of tears

  • Basal
    They are those that cover the eye permanently and are responsible for lubricating, nourishing and protecting the cornea. They are “like a shield.”

  • Reflection
    They form when something irritates our eyes. For example, when there is a lot of smoke, we get something in our eye or we cut onions. They may contain more antibodies to fight possible bacteria.

  • Emotional
    They are what produce some feelings in us such as joy, sadness or fear. They are more diluted and remain in the eye for a short time.

The Galician researcher insists that the causes may be diverse, but what is clear is that the use and abuse of screens does not help at all. During confinement, the University carried out an analysis with the students themselves, which they later published in ‘The Conversation’. So, there was a group of them that went to class and another that followed the race electronically. They realized that those who used the computer to study and then used more screens in other activities had “higher symptomatology values.” The first recommendation, therefore, is to limit their use, but how to do it in a world where they are increasingly essential?

“There are other visual health recommendations that can help us,” admits the professor. “It’s not about not using screens, but we will have to be careful with two important things: the type and the lighting.” Avoiding reflections and blinking more often are two things that are in our power. As well as taking visual breaks: “Let’s look out the window more.”


Another important issue is to wear sunglasses more. We often only take them out when there is excess light, but we should wear them all year round and even when it is cloudy. “They are a physical barrier that not only protects us from the sun, but also from the wind, which affects tears,” he explains. Likewise, you should avoid fans facing your face like Paulina Rubio in hot weather. And in cold weather, very high heating: “The ideal temperature would be between 20 and 21 degrees.”

«We must avoid very high temperatures at home or in the office if we have dry eyes. “The ideal is for them to be around 21 degrees.”

Jacobo García Queiruga

Professor and researcher at the University of Santiago de Compostela

If we suspect that we suffer from dry eye, we should avoid using all kinds of concoctions without first consulting an expert. “We opticians are usually the first people turn to,” admits García Queiruga. However, the ideal is to go to an ophthalmologist to study the eye and recommend how to act. Because having symptoms of dry eyes does not mean that we suffer from the disease either. «The guide prepared by the Tear Film & Ocular Surface Society makes it clear that, in addition to showing symptoms, patients must present signs of damage to the ocular surface. It is the vision professional who must determine if this damage exists and what measures have to be taken.

What we should do in any case is to take extreme eye hygiene. And within it, do a good makeup remover, especially if we like to paint the eye line. “These pencils are formulated in such a way that if we do not remove them, they can clog the area where the meibomian glands are, which are the ones that produce fat.”

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