Tears are necessary for healthy eyes. They wash any dust or particles out of the eye and keep the eyes moist and comfortable. They also contain enzymes that eliminate microorganisms that can be found in the eye.
For individuals whose eyes do not produce adequate amounts of tears, symptoms can be present such as perpetual feelings of dryness, burning, itching or the feeling of something in your eye. Ironically, occasionally dry eyes can cause watery eyes to try to defend against inadequate tearing.
Dry eye syndrome is caused by a number of reasons. The first factor is age since it is usually adults that complain of dry eye syndrome, particularly women during menopause. Reduction in tear production can be a side effect of many medicines. Dry or dusty air, and excessive heating or air conditioning can also cause or worsen dry eyes. Additionally, certain systemic diseases or deficiencies in producing tears, extended sitting in front of a computer screen which can reduce blinking, or use of contact lenses can result in dry eye syndrome.
The symptoms associated with dry eye syndrome may be improved by using lubricating eye drops to put moisture back into the eye. Your optometrist can instruct you which eye drops to purchase and how to use them. If non-prescription options don’t help you may need prescription drops that actually enhance tear production.
For more serious cases, your eye doctor might suggest Lacrisert, which is placed on the eyelid and continually lets out lubricants at various intervals. You might also want to try punctual plugs which help keep moisture on the eye by keeping tears from draining too quickly. Some optometrists will discuss a few dietary or environmental modifications to reduce discomfort.
In most cases, dry eye syndrome does not damage your eyes permanently but can be a nuisance. Nevertheless, severe dry eyes could make you more susceptible to infection so it is worthwhile to consult with your optometrist.
It’s not necessary to live with dry, itchy, burning eyes - visit your eye doctor right away!