Tears are necessary for healthy eyes. Tears wash out any small particles that may be in the eye and maintain moisture. Certain enzymes found in tears eliminate microorganisms that can be present in the eye.
In instances where the eyes lack sufficient tears, the results are often discomfort such as constant feelings of dryness, stinging, itching or a foreign body sensation. To the surprise of many, sometimes dry eyes can cause eyes to water excessively if the eyes over-stimulate tear production to combat dryness.
Dry eye syndrome can be caused by a number of reasons. Dry eyes are often age related since it is usually adults that complain of dry eye syndrome, and often women going through menopause. Dry eye syndrome is also a result of a number of medications including diuretics, antidepressants, birth control pills among others. Climate that is windy, or dry heat or air circulation can also be the cause. Additionally, certain systemic diseases or deficiencies in producing tears, extended computer use or contact lens wear can contribute to dry eyes.
The symptoms associated with dry eye syndrome can often be improved with the use of lubricating eye drops to put moisture back into the eye. Your eye doctor can instruct you which eye drops to purchase and how to use them. If over the counter drops don’t help your doctor might prescribe Rx drops that actually stimulate tear production.
For more serious cases, your eye doctor might opt for Lacrisert, which is placed on the eyelid and periodically releases lubricants throughout the day. You might also want to try punctual plugs which help keep moisture on the eye by reducing the let down of tears. Some eye care professionals will recommend ways for you to change your environment or your diet to relieve discomfort.
For most individuals, dry eye syndrome will not affect your eyes permanently but can be an annoyance. However, severe cases could make you more vulnerable to infection so it is worthwhile to consult with your eye doctor.
Particularly during the cold season, it is important to make every effort to safeguard your eyes from arid air, biting winds and dust. Wearing sunglasses when going outdoors, and making use of humidifiers indoors to combat dry heat may be helpful.
It’s not necessary to live with dry, itchy, burning eyes - make an appointment with your optometrist right away!