Your eyes need tears to stay healthy. They wash any dust or particles out of the eye and maintain moisture. Certain enzymes found in tears protect the eyes from microorganisms that can be present in the eye.
When the eyes lack sufficient tears, symptoms can present themselves such as perpetual feelings of dryness, stinging, scratchiness or the feeling of a foreign body in your eye. To the surprise of many, dry eyes often can cause eyes to water excessively as the eyes try to defend against dryness.
There are a number of factors that contribute to dry eyes. The first factor is age as most individuals that suffer from dry eyes are adults, especially women during menopause. Reduction in tear production can also result from certain medicines. Dry or dusty air, and dry heat or air circulation are also known to cause or worsen dry eyes. In addition, certain systemic diseases or problems with tear production, extended staring at a computer or use of contact lenses can cause dry eyes.
The symptoms associated with dry eye syndrome can often be alleviated by using artificial tears to put moisture back into the eye. 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 you may need prescription drops that stimulate your body to make more tears.
For more serious cases, your eye care professional might recommend Lacrisert, which is inserted into the eyelid and releases moisturizing ingredients at various intervals. You might also want to try punctual plugs which help keep moisture on the eye by restricting tears from draining too rapidly. Some eye care professionals may discuss a few dietary or environmental changes to relieve discomfort.
In the majority of cases, dry eye syndrome will not affect your eyes permanently but can be an annoyance. However, very serious dry eyes have a chance of making you more vulnerable to 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!