Tears are necessary for healthy eyes. Tears rinse away any small particles that may be in the eye and keep the eyes moist and comfortable. Certain enzymes found in tears guard the eyes from microorganisms that can be present in the eye. When the eyes do not produce enough tears, the results are often discomfort such as constant dryness, burning, scratchiness or a foreign body sensation. Ironically, dry eyes often cause watery eyes if the eyes over-stimulate tear production to compensate for dryness.
There are a number of factors that contribute to dry eye syndrome. Dry eyes are often age related as most individuals that suffer from dry eyes are adults, particularly women during menopause. Dry eye syndrome can also result from certain medicines including diuretics, beta blockers, birth control pills as well as others. Climate that is windy, or dry heat or air circulation can also be to blame. Additionally, certain systemic diseases or deficiencies in producing tears, continual staring at a computer or use of contact lenses can result in dry eye syndrome.
Dry eye symptoms can often be improved with the use of lubricating eye drops to put moisture back into the eye. It’s recommended to speak with your optometrist to know which eye drops to buy and how to use them. If over the counter drops don’t help your doctor might prescribe Rx drops that enhance tear production.
With more severe cases, your eye care professional might want to try Lacrisert, an insert placed inside the eyelid that releases moisturizing ingredients during the day. Another option is lacrimal plugs which help keep the eye moist by slowing the drainage of tears. Some optometrists might discuss a few ways for you to adapt your environment and your diet to alleviate the symptoms as well.
In the majority of cases, dry eye syndrome does not result in any permanent harm but can be a nuisance. However, severe dry eyes have a chance of making you more vulnerable to infection so it is advised to consult with your eye doctor.
Particularly in the wintertime, it is important to make sure to defend your eyes from dryness, biting winds and irritants. Using sunglasses when going outdoors, and using humidifiers inside to combat dry heat are ways to reduce exposure and dryness.
You don’t have to live with dry, itchy, burning eyes - make an appointment with your eye doctor as soon as possible!