Your eyes need tears to stay healthy. They wash out any small particles that may be in the eye and maintain moisture. Certain enzymes found in tears eliminate microorganisms that can be present in the eye.
When the eyes have insufficient tears, the results are often discomfort such as constant feelings of dryness, stinging, itching or a foreign body sensation. Ironically, dry eyes often can cause eyes to water excessively to try to defend against inadequate tearing.
Dry eye syndrome can be caused by a number of factors. Dry eyes are often age related since it is usually adults that complain of dry eye syndrome, particularly women during menopause. Reduction in tear production can also be a result of several medicines. Dry or dusty air, and dry heat or air circulation can also be to blame. Additionally, certain systemic diseases or deficiencies in tear production, prolonged staring at a computer or contact lens wear can cause dry eye syndrome.
The first treatment option is typically artificial tears which work by putting moisture back into the eye. Your optometrist can instruct you which eye drops to purchase and how to use them. If over the counter drops aren’t working you may need Rx drops that stimulate tear production.
For more severe cases, your eye doctor might opt for Lacrisert, which is placed on the eyelid and continually releases lubricants at various intervals. Another option is punctual plugs which help keep the eye moist by controlling the let down of tears. Some optometrists might recommend dietary or environmental modifications to lessen discomfort.
In most cases, dry eye syndrome does not damage your eyes permanently but can be a discomfort. Nevertheless, very serious dry eyes increase the risk of infection so it is advised to speak to your eye doctor.
Especially during the cold season, it is important to try to safeguard your eyes from dryness, biting winds and dust. Using sunglasses when outside, and using humidifiers inside to combat dry heat may be helpful.
You don’t have to live with dry, itchy, burning eyes - make an appointment with your eye doctor today!