The stress level in today's world is much higher than before. Working 10 hour days are common. Instant messaging that just can't wait, grabbing dinner and lunch on the go, not enough exercise, over eating, insomnia, you get the picture.
Can stress cause dry eyes? Yes!
There is a body of scientific evidence that links STRESS to chronic dry eye syndrome. Stress seems to cause cellular damage which leads to conjunctivitis, dry eyes, macular degeneration (AMD). UV light and tobacco smoke can result in epithelial damages to the cornea. Oxidative stress results in many cellular changes which eventually leads to cell death.
In animal models, inhibition of oxidative stress (such as using steriods), and inflammation can interrupt and break the cycle of cell death. We now have several animal models that demonstrate this phenomena is true. Inflammation is a major culprit. Inflammation is seen in every severe dry eye cases which leads to cornea damage.
This creation of numerous cell and animal models that selectively target the effects of oxidative stress and inflammation to the specifically affected eye region in these diseases has greatly advanced our understanding of the involvement of oxidative stress in eye disease.
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Reference: Here is an abstract from an article published in Cornea: October 2009 - Volume 28 - Issue 11 - pp S70-S74