Tears are necessary for healthy eyes. Tears flush any dust or particles out of the eye and maintain moisture. They also contain enzymes that guard the eyes from bacteria that can be found in the eye.
In instances where the eyes have insufficient tears, the results are often discomfort such as perpetual feelings of 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 defend against inadequate tearing.
There are a number of factors that contribute to dry eyes. One factor is age since it is usually adults that complain of dry eye syndrome, especially women during menopause. Dry eye syndrome can be a side effect of a number of medications. Dry or dusty air, and dry heat or air circulation can also cause or worsen dry eyes. Additionally, some diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis or others, continual computer use or contact lens usage can contribute to dry eye syndrome.
The preferred treatment option is typically lubricating eye drops which work by adding moisture. Your optometrist can instruct you which eye drops to get and how to use them. If non-prescription drops aren’t helpful you may need prescription drops that actually help your eyes to make more tears.
For more serious cases, your optometrist might opt for Lacrisert, an insert placed inside the eyelid that periodically releases lubricating ingredients at various intervals. You might also want to try lacrimal plugs which help keep moisture on the eye by keeping tear flow at bay. Some optometrists may recommend dietary or environmental adjustments to lessen discomfort.
In the majority of cases, dry eye syndrome does not cause any permanent harm but can be an annoyance. However, very serious cases could make you more at risk of infection so it is advised to speak to your optometrist.
Particularly in the winter, it is important to make sure to safeguard your eyes from dryness, cold winds and dust. Using sunglasses when going outdoors, and trying out humidifiers inside when the heat is blasting are ways to reduce exposure and dryness.
If you notice some of the symptoms listed above schedule a visit to your optometrist right away!