Tears are an essential element of eye health. Tears rinse the eye of any dust or particles and keep the eyes moist and comfortable. They also contain enzymes that protect the eyes from microorganisms that can be found in the eye.
When the eyes lack sufficient tears, the results are often discomfort such as persistent dryness, burning, scratchiness or the feeling of something in your eye. Ironically, sometimes dry eyes cause eyes to water excessively as the eyes try to compensate for inadequate tearing.
There are several causes of dry eye syndrome. Dry eyes are often age related as most individuals that suffer from dry eyes are adults, and often women during menopause. Dry eye syndrome can also be a side effect of several medicines including diuretics, antidepressants, birth control pills among others. Dry or dusty air, and dry heat or air circulation are also known causes. In addition, some diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis or others, excessive computer use or use of contact lenses can add to the chances of dry eye syndrome.
The first treatment option is typically lubricating eye drops which work by putting moisture back into the eye. It’s a good idea to consult with your eye doctor to make sure you are using the right eye drops in the right way. If over the counter options don’t help your doctor might prescribe Rx drops that help your body to produce more tears.
For more serious cases, your eye doctor might suggest Lacrisert, an insert placed inside the eyelid that periodically lets out lubricants at various intervals. Another option might be lacrimal plugs which help the eye stay lubricated by reducing the let down of tears. Some eye care professionals will suggest you try dietary or environmental adjustments to relieve the symptoms as well.
In the majority of cases, dry eye syndrome will not affect your eyes permanently but can be an annoyance. Nevertheless, very serious cases increase the risk of infection so it is a good idea to consult with your optometrist.
Especially in the winter, it would help to try to defend your eyes from dry, cold winds and dust. Wearing sunglasses when outside, and trying out a humidifier indoors to combat dry heat may be helpful.
You don’t have to suffer from dry, itchy, burning eyes - contact your optometrist as soon as possible!