Tears are necessary to keep your eyes healthy. Tears flush out any small particles that may be in the eye and maintain moisture. They also contain enzymes that eliminate microorganisms that are sometimes present in the eye.
When the eyes do not produce adequate amounts of tears, symptoms can present themselves such as constant dryness, stinging, itching or a foreign body sensation. Ironically, sometimes dry eyes can cause watery eyes in an attempt to compensate for dryness.
Dry eyes are a result of a number of factors. The first factor is age since it is usually adults that complain of dry eye syndrome, especially women during menopause. Reduction in tear production can also be a result of many medicines such as diuretics, antidepressants, birth control pills or others. Dry or dusty air, and excessive heating or air conditioning are also known to be factors. Additionally, some diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis or others, excessive use of the computer or usage of contact lenses can add to the chances of dry eye syndrome.
The first treatment to try is typically artificial tears which often work to make up for the lack of natural tears. It’s a good idea to speak with your optometrist to determine which eye drops to buy and how to use them. If non-prescription options aren’t helpful your doctor might prescribe prescription drops that actually stimulate tear production.
With more severe cases, your eye doctor might opt for Lacrisert, which is inserted into the eyelid and releases lubricants during the day. Another option might be punctual plugs which help keep moisture on the eye by reducing the drainage of tears. Some eye care professionals might suggest you try ways for you to change your environment or your diet to reduce discomfort.
For the majority of individuals, dry eye syndrome does not result in any sustained harm but can be an annoyance. Although, very serious cases could make you more at risk of infection so it is a good idea to speak to your eye doctor.
Especially during the winter months, it is important to try to protect your eyes from arid air, cold winds and irritants. Using sunglasses when outside, and using humidifiers inside to combat dry heat are steps that could help.
It’s not necessary to live with dry, itchy, burning eyes - make an appointment with your eye doctor right away!