Tears are necessary for healthy eyes. They flush any dust or particles out of the eye and maintain moisture. They also contain enzymes that eliminate bacteria that are sometimes found in the eye.
When the eyes do not produce adequate amounts of tears, symptoms can present themselves such as persistent dryness, burning, scratchiness or a foreign body sensation. Ironically, dry eyes often cause eyes to water excessively if the eyes over-stimulate tear production to make up for dryness.
Dry eyes can be caused by a number of reasons. Dry eyes are often age related as most individuals that suffer from dry eyes are adults, particularly women during menopause. Dry eye syndrome can also result from certain medications. Dry or dusty air, and indoor dry heating or air conditioning can also be factors. In addition, some diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis or others, excessive computer use which can reduce blinking, or contact lens wear can contribute to dry eye syndrome.
The first treatment to try is usually artificial tears which often work to reduce dryness. Your eye doctor can show you which eye drops to buy and how to use them. If over the counter artificial tears aren’t working your doctor might prescribe prescription drops that actually help your body to produce more tears.
For more severe cases, your optometrist might suggest Lacrisert, an insert placed inside the eyelid that lets out lubricants at various intervals. You may also want to try punctual plugs which help keep moisture on the eye by reducing the drainage of tears. Some optometrists will recommend dietary or environmental adjustments to lessen the symptoms as well.
In most cases, dry eye syndrome will not result in any sustained damage but can be an annoyance. Nevertheless, very serious cases have a chance of making you more susceptible to infection so it is advised to consult with your eye doctor.
Especially during the wintertime, it is important to make every effort to safeguard your eyes from arid air, cold winds and irritants. Using sunglasses when outside, and trying out humidifiers indoors to combat dry heat may be helpful.
If you are suffering from dry, itchy, burning eyes, it could be dry eye syndrome so make an appointment with your optometrist right away!