Tears are necessary to keep your eyes healthy. Tears rinse away any small particles that may be in the eye and maintain moisture. They also contain enzymes that eliminate bacteria that are sometimes present in the eye.
When the eyes do not produce sufficient tears, symptoms can result such as constant feelings of dryness, burning, itching or the feeling of a foreign body in your eye. Ironically, dry eyes occasionally cause eyes to water excessively if the eyes over-stimulate tear production to defend against dryness.
There are several factors that contribute to dry eye syndrome. One factor is age as most individuals that suffer from dry eyes are adults, particularly women during menopause. Dry eye syndrome can also be a side effect of many medicines. Dry or dusty air, and indoor dry heating or air conditioning are also known triggers. In addition, certain systemic diseases or deficiencies in tear production, prolonged use of the computer or contact lens usage can cause dry eyes.
The preferred treatment option is typically lubricating eye drops which often work to reduce dryness. Your optometrist can tell you which eye drops to purchase and how to use them. If over the counter options aren’t helpful your doctor might prescribe Rx drops that stimulate your eyes to make more tears.
If eye drops aren’t helpful, your eye care professional might recommend Lacrisert, an insert placed inside the eyelid that periodically releases moisturizing ingredients throughout the day. You might also want to try lacrimal plugs which help keep moisture on the eye by slowing the drainage of tears. Some eye care professionals will recommend ways for you to modify your environment or your diet to relieve discomfort.
In the majority of cases, dry eye syndrome will not result in any permanent harm but can be an annoyance. Although, very serious cases have a chance of making you more susceptible to infection so it is a good idea to consult with your optometrist.
Particularly during the winter months, you should to make every effort to safeguard your eyes from dry, cold winds and dust. Using sunglasses when going outdoors, and using a humidifier inside when the heat is blasting are ways to reduce exposure and dryness.
You don’t have to suffer from dry, itchy, burning eyes - contact your optometrist right away!