Tears are necessary for healthy eyes. Tears flush any dust or particles out of the eye and maintain moisture. They also contain enzymes that eliminate microorganisms that can be present in the eye.
In instances where the eyes do not produce adequate amounts of tears, symptoms can be present such as persistent dryness, stinging, itching or the feeling of a foreign body in your eye. Ironically, sometimes dry eyes cause watery eyes in an attempt to make up for dryness.
There are a number of causes of dry eye syndrome. Dry eyes are often age related as most individuals that suffer from dry eyes are adults, especially women during menopause. Dry eye syndrome can also result from certain medicines including diuretics, antidepressants, birth control pills among others. Dry or dusty air, and indoor dry heating or air conditioning are also known to cause or worsen dry eyes. Additionally, certain systemic diseases or deficiencies in tear production, extended staring at a computer which can limit blinking, or usage of contact lenses can add to the chances of dry eyes.
The first treatment option is usually artificial tears which often work to reduce dryness. Your optometrist can show you which eye drops to get and how to use them. If over the counter artificial tears aren’t helpful your doctor might prescribe prescription drops that stimulate tear production.
For more severe cases, your eye care professional might suggest Lacrisert, an insert placed inside the eyelid that continually releases lubricating ingredients at various intervals. Another option might be punctual plugs which help keep moisture on the eye by restricting tear flow. Some eye doctors will suggest you try ways for you to modify your environment and your diet to reduce the symptoms as well.
In most cases, dry eye syndrome will not affect your eyes permanently but can be a nuisance. Nevertheless, severe cases have a chance of making you more vulnerable to infection so it is advised to consult with your optometrist.
Particularly in the winter, it would help to try to defend your eyes from dry, biting winds and irritants. Wearing sunglasses when going outdoors, and using humidifiers indoors to combat dry heat are steps that could help.
If you notice dry, itchy, burning eyes, it could be dry eye syndrome so make an appointment with your eye doctor right away!