Tears are necessary to keep your eyes healthy. Tears flush out any small particles that may be in the eye and maintain moisture. Certain enzymes found in tears protect the eyes from microorganisms that can be present in the eye.
For individuals whose eyes do not produce sufficient tears, the results are often discomfort such as persistent dryness, burning, scratchiness or the feeling of something in your eye. Ironically, dry eyes often cause watery eyes if the eyes over-stimulate tear production to compensate for dryness.
Several causes can contribute to dry eye syndrome. The first factor is age as most individuals that suffer from dry eyes are adults, and often women during menopause. Reduction in tear production can also result from certain medications. Dry or dusty air, and dry heat or air circulation can also be factors. In addition, some diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis or others, extended sitting in front of a computer screen which can limit blinking, or contact lens wear can result in dry eyes.
The first treatment option is usually artificial tears which work by adding moisture. It’s a good idea to speak with your eye doctor to make sure you are using the right eye drops in the right way. If non-prescription drops aren’t helpful you may need prescription drops that actually enhance tear production.
If eye drops don’t relieve your discomfort, your optometrist might want to try Lacrisert, which is inserted into the eyelid and continually lets out lubricants during the day. You might also want to try lacrimal plugs which help the eye maintain moisture by inhibiting tear flow. Some optometrists might recommend ways for you to modify your environment or your diet to lessen discomfort.
For the majority of individuals, dry eye syndrome does not damage your vision permanently but can be an annoyance. Nevertheless, severe dry eyes could make you more susceptible to infection so it is a good idea to speak to your optometrist.
It’s not necessary to live with dry, itchy, burning eyes - visit your optometrist right away!