Your eyes need tears to stay healthy. They rinse away any small particles that may be in the eye and maintain moisture. Certain enzymes found in tears protect the eyes against microorganisms that can be present in the eye.
For individuals whose eyes lack sufficient tears, symptoms can result such as persistent feelings of dryness, burning, scratchiness or the feeling of a foreign body in your eye. To the surprise of many, dry eyes occasionally cause eyes to water excessively as the eyes try to defend against dryness.
Dry eye syndrome can be a result of a several reasons. Dry eyes are often age related as most individuals that suffer from dry eyes are adults, especially women during menopause. Dry eye syndrome can also result from certain medicines such as antihistamines, beta blockers, birth control pills or others. Dry or dusty air, and indoor dry heating or air conditioning are also known triggers. Additionally, some diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis or others, continual sitting in front of a computer screen which can limit blinking, or contact lens wear can cause dry eye syndrome.
The preferred treatment option is usually lubricating eye drops which often work to reduce dryness. It’s a good idea to speak with your optometrist to make sure you are using the right eye drops in the right way. If non-prescription artificial tears aren’t helpful your doctor might prescribe prescription drops that actually enhance tear production.
In more serious cases, your eye doctor might suggest Lacrisert, which is inserted into the eyelid and periodically lets out moisturizing ingredients during the day. You might also want to try punctual plugs which help the eye maintain moisture by controlling the drainage of tears. Some eye doctors will recommend dietary or environmental changes to relieve the symptoms as well.
For the majority of individuals, dry eye syndrome does not damage your eyes permanently but can be a discomfort. However, very serious dry eyes have a chance of making you more susceptible to infection so it is advised to speak to your eye doctor.
It’s not necessary to suffer from dry, itchy, burning eyes - visit your eye doctor as soon as possible!