Your eyes need tears to stay healthy. Tears flush any dust or particles out of the eye and maintain moisture. Certain enzymes found in tears eliminate bacteria that can be found in the eye.
When the eyes lack sufficient tears, symptoms can present themselves such as persistent dryness, burning, itching or the feeling of something in your eye. To the surprise of many, sometimes dry eyes can cause watery eyes if the eyes over-stimulate tear production to defend against inadequate tearing.
Dry eye syndrome is caused by a number of factors. The first factor is age as most individuals that suffer from dry eyes are adults, and often women going through menopause. Reduction in tear production can also result from certain medications such as antihistamines, beta blockers, birth control pills among others. Dry or dusty air, and excessive heating or air conditioning can also cause or worsen dry eyes. In addition, some diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis or others, excessive use of the computer which can cause insufficient blinking, or contact lens wear can add to the chances of dry eyes.
The symptoms associated with dry eye syndrome can often be improved by using artificial tears to reduce dryness. It’s recommended to speak with your eye doctor to know which drops to purchase and how to use them. If over the counter artificial tears aren’t working you may need Rx drops that actually stimulate tear production.
If artificial tears don’t relieve your discomfort, your optometrist might suggest Lacrisert, an insert placed inside the eyelid that periodically lets out lubricants during the day. You might also want to try lacrimal plugs which help keep the eye moist by inhibiting tears from draining too quickly. Some optometrists might recommend ways for you to change your environment or your diet to lessen the symptoms as well.
In most cases, dry eyes will not result in any sustained damage but can be a discomfort. Although, severe cases have a chance of making you more vulnerable to infection so it is a good idea to speak to your optometrist.
You don’t have to live with dry, itchy, burning eyes - contact your optometrist today!