Thomas B. Wood, OD

 Barbara C. Masiello, OD

Clear Vision Begins with Healthy Eyes.

Dry Eye

 

Dry eye is a condition in which there are insufficient tears to lubricate and nourish the eye. Tears are necessary for maintaining the health of the front surface of the eye and for providing clear vision. People with dry eyes either do not produce enough tears or have a poor quality of tears. Dry eye is a common and often chronic problem, particularly in older adults.

 

With each blink of the eyelids, tears are spread across the front surface of the eye, known as the cornea. Tears provide lubrication, reduce the risk of eye infection, wash away foreign matter in the eye, and keep the surface of the eyes smooth and clear. Excess tears in the eyes flow into small drainage ducts, in the inner corners of the eyelids, which drain in the back of the nose and throat.

 

Dry eyes can result from an improper balance of tear production and drainage.

 

What are the symptoms of dry eye?

Dry eye symptoms may include any of the following:

  • stinging or burning of the eye;
  • a sandy or gritty feeling as if something is in the eye;
  • episodes of excess tears following very dry eye periods;
  • a stringy discharge from the eye;
  • pain and redness of the eye;
  • episodes of blurred vision;
  • heavy eyelids;
  • inability to cry when emotionally stressed;
  • uncomfortable contact lenses;
  • decreased tolerance of reading, working on the computer, or any activity that requires sustained visual attention;
  • eye fatigue.

 

NOTE: If symptoms of dry eye persist, consult an eye care professional to get an accurate diagnosis of the condition and begin treatment to avoid permanent damage.

 

The development of dry eyes can have many causes. They include:

  • Age ? dry eye is a part of the natural aging process. The majority of people over age 65 experience some symptoms of dry eyes.

 

  • Gender ? women are more likely to develop dry eyes due to hormonal changes caused by pregnancy, the use of oral contraceptives, and menopause.

 

  • Medications ? certain medicines, including antihistamines, decongestants, blood pressure medications and antidepressants, can reduce the amount of tears produced in the eyes.

 

  • Medical conditions ? persons with rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and thyroid problems are more likely to have symptoms of dry eyes. Also, problems with inflammation of the eyelids (blepharitis), inflammation of the surfaces of the eye, or the inward or outward turning of eyelids can cause dry eyes to develop.

 

  • Environmental conditions ? exposure to smoke, wind and dry climates can increase tear evaporation resulting in dry eye symptoms. Failure to blink regularly, such as when staring at a computer screen for long periods of time, can also contribute to drying of the eyes.             

                        

  • Other factors ? long term use of contact lenses can be a factor in the development of dry eyes. Refractive eye surgeries, such as LASIK, can cause decreased tear production and dry eyes.

 

Treatment Options

 

Dry eyes can be a chronic condition, but your Optometrist can prescribe treatment to keep your eyes healthy, more comfortable, and prevent your vision from being affected. The primary approaches used to manage and treat dry eyes include adding tears by using artificial tear solutions as often as needed to supplement natural tear production. Conserving tears by blocking the tear ducts through which the tears normally drain. Increasing tear production with prescription eye drops, and treating the inflammation of the eyelids or eye surface that contributes to the dry eyes.