Tears are a necessary element of eye health. They rinse away any small particles that may be in the eye and keep the eyes moist and comfortable. They also contain enzymes that eliminate bacteria that can be present in the eye. For individuals whose eyes do not produce adequate amounts of tears, symptoms can result such as persistent feelings of dryness, stinging, itching or the feeling of a foreign body in your eye. To the surprise of many, sometimes dry eyes can cause watery eyes if the eyes over-stimulate tear production to compensate for dryness.
A number of factors can result in dry eyes. The first factor is age as most individuals that suffer from dry eyes are adults, particularly women during menopause. Reduction in tear production can also result from certain medicines such as diuretics, antidepressants, birth control pills among others. Dry or dusty air, and indoor dry heating or air conditioning are also known to cause or worsen dry eyes. In addition, certain systemic diseases or deficiencies in tear production, prolonged computer use which can limit blinking, or use of contact lenses can add to the chances of dry eye syndrome.
The symptoms associated with dry eye syndrome can often be improved by use of artificial tears to put moisture back into the eye. Your optometrist can tell you which eye drops to get and how to use them. If over the counter artificial tears don’t help you may need prescription drops that actually stimulate your eyes to produce more tears.
For more severe cases, your eye doctor might want to try Lacrisert, which is inserted into the eyelid and lets out moisturizing ingredients throughout the day. You might also want to try lacrimal plugs which help the eye maintain moisture by keeping tears from draining too quickly. Some eye doctors will recommend ways for you to change your environment and your diet to lessen the symptoms as well.
In most cases, dry eyes will not harm your eyes permanently but can be a discomfort. Nevertheless, very serious dry eyes have a chance of making you more vulnerable to infection so it is a good idea to consult with your eye doctor.
It’s not necessary to suffer from dry, itchy, burning eyes - schedule a visit to your eye doctor right away!