Your eyes need tears to stay healthy. Tears wash out any small particles that may be in the eye and keep the eyes moist and comfortable. They also contain enzymes that eliminate bacteria that can be present in the eye.
For individuals whose eyes do not produce adequate amounts of tears, the results are often discomfort such as constant dryness, stinging, itching or a foreign body sensation. Ironically, dry eyes occasionally cause eyes to water excessively if the eyes over-stimulate tear production to make up for dryness.
There are several factors that contribute to dry eyes. One factor is age since it is usually adults that complain of dry eye syndrome, and often women during menopause. Dry eye syndrome can be a side effect of several medications. Dry or dusty air, and excessive heating or air conditioning can also be factors. Additionally, some diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis or others, extended computer use which can reduce blinking, or use of contact lenses can result in dry eyes.
The preferred treatment to try is usually artificial tears which often work to reduce dryness. It’s recommended to check with your optometrist to make sure you are using the right eye drops in the right way. If over the counter drops don’t help your doctor might prescribe prescription drops that actually stimulate your body to produce more tears.
For more serious cases, your optometrist might suggest Lacrisert, an insert placed inside the eyelid that continually lets out lubricants at various intervals. You might also want to try lacrimal plugs which help the eye stay moist by restricting tears from draining too rapidly. Some eye care professionals will discuss a few ways for you to adapt your environment or your diet to alleviate the symptoms as well.
For the majority of individuals, dry eye syndrome does not damage your eyes permanently but can be a discomfort. Nevertheless, severe cases have a chance of making you more vulnerable to infection so it is advised to consult with your optometrist.
Especially during the winter months, it would help to try to protect your eyes from dryness, cold winds and irritants. Using sunglasses when going outdoors, and making use of a humidifier indoors when the heat is blasting are ways to reduce exposure and dryness.
If you are feeling symptoms of dry eye contact your optometrist as soon as possible!