Tears are necessary for healthy eyes. They flush any dust or particles out of the eye and maintain moisture. They also contain enzymes that eliminate bacteria that can be present in the eye. In instances where the eyes lack sufficient tears, symptoms can be present such as perpetual dryness, burning, itching or the feeling of a foreign body in your eye. Ironically, dry eyes often can cause eyes to water excessively if the eyes over-stimulate tear production to combat inadequate tearing.
Dry eyes can be caused by a several factors. Dry eyes are often age related since it is usually adults that complain of dry eye syndrome, especially women during menopause. Dry eye syndrome can also be a side effect of several medications such as antihistamines, beta blockers, birth control pills or others. Climate that is especially dusty, or dry heat or air circulation are also known to be factors. Additionally, certain systemic diseases or problems with producing tears, excessive sitting in front of a computer screen which can cause insufficient blinking, or contact lens usage can contribute to dry eyes.
The preferred treatment option is typically artificial tears which often work to make up for the lack of natural tears. It’s recommended to consult with your eye doctor to determine which drops to purchase and how to use them. If over the counter artificial tears don’t help your doctor might prescribe prescription drops that actually stimulate tear production.
For more severe cases, your optometrist might want to try Lacrisert, an insert placed inside the eyelid that continually lets out moisturizing ingredients at various intervals. Another option could be punctual plugs which help the eye stay moist by keeping tears from draining too rapidly. Some optometrists may recommend nutritional supplements or environmental changes to alleviate the symptoms as well.
In most cases, dry eyes do not affect your vision permanently but can be an annoyance. However, severe dry eyes could make you more vulnerable to infection so it is a good idea to consult with your optometrist.
If you notice symptoms of dry eye contact your optometrist right away!