If you have never suffered from dry eye, you might not appreciate how important your tears are to your eye health. Without enough moisture, your eyes can become dry, itchy, red and uncomfortable. Dry eye occurs when you do not make enough tears or the tears you produce are not high quality.
The Importance of Tears
Although you might not realize it, your eyes constantly produce tears. Tears are needed to keep the front of your eyes moist and comfortable. They help remove tiny specks of debris or dust from the eyes. When something falls into your eye, tear production increases, in an attempt to wash away the foreign object.
Symptoms of Dry Eye
Dry eye symptoms include:
A feeling that there is a foreign object in your eyes
Gritty or sandy feeling in the eyes
Burning and stinging
Pain and redness
Difficulty reading or working on a computer for long periods of time
Discomfort when wearing contact lenses
Inability to cry
Who Gets Dry Eye?
Dry eye can occur at any age; although it is most common in people over the age of 65. Hormonal changes in women during pregnancy and menopause can increase the risk of dry eye, as can the use of hormonal birth control methods, such as birth control pills.
No matter what your age, you may experience dry eye if you are exposed to wind, dry conditions or smoke, or have allergies. Some types of medications can affect tear production, including antidepressants, tranquilizers, hormone replacement medications, antihistamines, blood pressure medication and decongestants. If you have thyroid disease, diabetes, chronic conjunctivitis, lupus, Sjogren's syndrome or rheumatoid arthritis, you may be more likely to develop the condition.
Dry eye can also be a problem if you have worn contact lenses for many years or have had LASIK surgery to improve your vision. In some cases, LASIK can decrease tear production. Failure to blink regularly, which can occur when you stare at a computer monitor for a long time, can also trigger the problem.
Optometrists can offer several strategies and treatment options that will help your eyes feel more comfortable, including:
- The use of artificial tears for added moisture
- Changing a medication if dry eye is a side effect
- Treating underlying diseases and conditions that cause dry eye
- Plugging the drainage holes in your eyes to prevent tears from draining too quickly
- Changing the type of contact lenses you wear
- Recommending that you use an air purifier to remove allergens from the air
- Prescribing cyclosporine, an anti-inflammatory medicine that increases tear production
If you have a severe case of dry eye, your eye doctor may suggest punctal cautery, a minor surgical procedure that permanently plugs the drainage holes in your eyes.
Keep your eyes healthy with regular eye examinations. Is it about time for your next exam? If so, call us today to set up an appointment!