Tears are an essential element of eye health. Tears rinse away any small particles caught in the eye and keep the eyes moist and comfortable. Certain enzymes found in tears eliminate microorganisms that are sometimes found in the eye.
In instances where the eyes lack sufficient tears, the results are often discomfort such as perpetual feelings of dryness, burning, itching or a foreign body sensation. Ironically, occasionally dry eyes can cause watery eyes if the eyes over-stimulate tear production to make up for dryness.
A number of causes can contribute to dry eye syndrome. Dry eyes are often age related as most individuals that suffer from dry eyes are adults, especially women during menopause. Reduction in tear production can also be a result of some medications including diuretics, beta blockers, blood pressure pills as well as others. Dry or dusty air, and dry heat or air circulation can also cause or worsen dry eyes. Additionally, some diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis or others, prolonged staring at a computer which can cause insufficient blinking, or usage of contact lenses can result in dry eye syndrome.
The first treatment to try is usually artificial tears which work by putting moisture back into the eye. It’s advisable to consult with your optometrist to know which drops to purchase and how to use them. If over the counter drops aren’t working your doctor might prescribe Rx drops that actually help your body to make more tears.
In more severe cases, your optometrist might suggest Lacrisert, which is inserted into the eyelid and continually releases lubricants throughout the day. You may also want to try punctual plugs which help the eye maintain moisture by inhibiting tears from draining too quickly. Some eye care professionals will recommend ways for you to adapt your environment or your diet to lessen discomfort.
For the majority of individuals, dry eye syndrome does not result in any sustained damage but can be a discomfort. However, severe cases have a chance of making you more vulnerable to infection so it is advised to speak to your eye doctor.
Especially in the winter, it would help to make sure to safeguard your eyes from dryness, cold winds and dust. Using sunglasses when going outdoors, and using a humidifier indoors when the heat is blasting may be helpful.
You don’t have to live with dry, itchy, burning eyes - contact your eye doctor today!