Tears are necessary for healthy eyes. They flush any dust or particles out of the eye and maintain moisture. Certain enzymes found in tears eliminate bacteria that are present in the eye on occasion.
For individuals whose eyes lack sufficient tears, the results are often discomfort such as persistent dryness, stinging, scratchiness or the feeling of a foreign body in your eye. Ironically, dry eyes occasionally cause watery eyes if the eyes over-stimulate tear production to make up for dryness.
Several factors can contribute to dry eye syndrome. The first factor is age 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 as well as others. Environmental conditions that are particularly dry, or dry heat or air circulation can also cause or worsen dry eyes. Additionally, certain systemic diseases or deficiencies in tear production, excessive use of the computer which can reduce blinking, or contact lens usage can contribute to dry eyes.
The symptoms associated with dry eyes can often be improved by using artificial tears to reduce dryness. Your optometrist can instruct you which eye drops to get and how to use them. If non-prescription artificial tears don’t help your doctor might prescribe prescription drops that actually stimulate your body to produce more tears.
In more serious cases, your optometrist might recommend Lacrisert, which is placed on the eyelid and periodically releases lubricants throughout the day. You may also want to try lacrimal plugs which help keep the eye moist by inhibiting tears from draining too rapidly. Some eye care professionals might suggest you try ways for you to change your environment and your diet to alleviate discomfort.
For most individuals, dry eyes do not result in any sustained harm but can be a nuisance. Although, very serious dry eyes could make you more at risk of infection so it is advised to speak to your eye doctor.
It’s not necessary to suffer from dry, itchy, burning eyes - schedule a visit to your optometrist today!