Your eyes need tears to stay healthy. Tears wash any dust or particles out of the eye and keep the eyes moist and comfortable. They also contain enzymes that guard the eyes against bacteria that can be found in the eye. When the eyes do not produce sufficient tears, the results are often discomfort such as persistent dryness, burning, itching or a foreign body sensation. Ironically, sometimes dry eyes can cause eyes to water excessively if the eyes over-stimulate tear production to defend against dryness. Dry eye syndrome can be caused by a number of reasons. Dry eyes are often age related as most individuals that suffer from dry eyes are adults, and often women going through menopause. Reduction in tear production can also result from certain medicines such as diuretics, beta blockers, birth control pills or others. 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, extended staring at a computer or usage of contact lenses can cause dry eye syndrome. The first treatment to try is typically lubricating eye drops which work by putting moisture back into the eye. Your eye doctor can tell you which eye drops to buy and how to use them. If non-prescription drops don’t help your doctor might prescribe prescription drops that stimulate tear production.
With more severe cases, your eye doctor might want to try Lacrisert, which is placed on the eyelid and releases lubricants at various intervals. Another option could be lacrimal plugs which help the eye maintain moisture by controlling the drainage of tears. Some optometrists might discuss a few ways for you to adapt your environment or your diet to reduce discomfort.
For most individuals, dry eye syndrome does not cause any real harm but can be a discomfort. However, very serious cases increase the risk of infection so it is a good idea to consult with your eye doctor.
It’s not necessary to live with dry, itchy, burning eyes - schedule a visit to your eye doctor today!