Tears are necessary for healthy eyes. Tears flush any dust or particles out of the eye and maintain moisture. Certain enzymes found in tears eliminate microorganisms that are sometimes found in the eye.
When the eyes do not produce adequate amounts of tears, the results are often discomfort such as perpetual dryness, stinging, scratchiness or a foreign body sensation. To the surprise of many, occasionally dry eyes can cause eyes to water excessively if the eyes over-stimulate tear production to compensate for inadequate tearing.
Several causes can result in 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 a number of medications. Dry or dusty air, and dry heat or air circulation are also known to cause or worsen dry eyes. Additionally, certain systemic diseases or problems with tear production, excessive staring at a computer which can limit blinking, or contact lens wear can contribute to dry eyes.
Dry eye symptoms may be alleviated by using lubricating eye drops to add moisture. Your optometrist can instruct you which eye drops to buy and how to use them. If non-prescription options don’t help you may need prescription drops that actually help your body to produce more tears.
In more severe cases, your optometrist might recommend Lacrisert, an insert placed inside the eyelid that lets out lubricants throughout the day. Another option could be punctual plugs which help keep the eye moist by slowing the drainage of tears. Some eye doctors may suggest you try dietary or environmental modifications to alleviate the symptoms as well.
For the majority of individuals, dry eye syndrome will not affect your eyes permanently but can be a discomfort. Although, very serious cases have a chance of making you more susceptible to infection so it is advised to consult with your optometrist.
Particularly in the winter months, it would help to make sure to safeguard your eyes from arid air, cold winds and dust. Using 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 eye doctor as soon as possible!