Everyone has a thin layer of tears that coats the front surface of our eyes. These tears keep our eyes healthy and comfortable, and are needed for both overall eye health and clear vision.
Dry eye occurs when your eyes don’t produce enough tears or produce tears that don’t have the proper chemical composition.
Dry eye symptoms can result from the normal aging process, hormonal changes, exposure to certain environmental conditions, problems with normal blinking, or from medications such as antihistamines, oral contraceptives or antidepressants. Dry eye can also be a symptom of general health problems, such as arthritis, or can result from UV exposure and environmental irritants.
The common symptoms of dry eye include stinging, gritty, scratchy and uncomfortable eyes, fluctuating vision, and a burning feeling or a feeling of a foreign body within the eye.
In moderate to severe cases, you may experience blurred vision, light sensitivity or even periods of excess tearing.
If dry eye is left untreated, it can be harmful. Excessive dry eye can damage and possibly scar the sensitive corneal tissues of your eye, impairing vision. Dry eye can make contact lens wear more difficult.
Dry eye is usually chronic, and although there is no cure, your Doctor of Optometry can offer treatment to manage the condition and improve your comfort.
Lubricating eye drops, ointments and/or prescription medication may be used, and in more severe cases, small plugs may be inserted in the corner of the eyelids to slow drainage and loss of tears.
Treating any underlying systemic disease, or changing your diet to include items such as fish or flax seed oil, can also be helpful at times. New prescription medications are also available to help your body produce more of its own tears.