Your eyes need tears to stay healthy. Tears rinse the eye of any dust or particles and maintain moisture. Certain enzymes found in tears eliminate microorganisms that are sometimes present in the eye.
For individuals whose eyes have insufficient tears, symptoms can present themselves such as constant feelings of dryness, stinging, scratchiness or the feeling of something in your eye. To the surprise of many, dry eyes often cause watery eyes if the eyes over-stimulate tear production to combat inadequate tearing.
A number of causes can contribute to dry eye syndrome. One factor is age as most individuals that suffer from dry eyes are adults, and often women going through menopause. Reduction in tear production can also result from certain medications including diuretics, beta blockers, birth control pills among others. Dry or dusty air, and dry heat or air circulation are also known causes. Additionally, certain systemic diseases or deficiencies in producing tears, excessive staring at a computer which can cause insufficient blinking, or contact lens usage can contribute to dry eyes.
The preferred treatment to try is typically lubricating eye drops which often work to reduce dryness. It’s recommended to speak with your optometrist to make sure you are using the right eye drops in the right way. If over the counter options don’t help your doctor might prescribe Rx drops that actually stimulate your body to produce more tears.
If eye drops aren’t helpful, your eye doctor might recommend Lacrisert, an insert placed inside the eyelid that releases lubricants throughout the day. You may also want to try lacrimal plugs which help keep the eye moist by controlling the drainage of tears. Some eye care professionals might discuss a few ways for you to change your environment and your diet to lessen discomfort.
For the majority of individuals, dry eye syndrome will not result in any sustained harm but can be a discomfort. However, very serious cases could make you more at risk of infection so it is worthwhile to consult with your optometrist.
You don’t have to live with dry, itchy, burning eyes - contact your optometrist as soon as possible!