Your eyes need tears to stay healthy. They rinse away any small particles caught in the eye and keep the eyes moist and comfortable. Certain enzymes found in tears eliminate bacteria that can be present in the eye.
For individuals whose eyes do not produce enough tears, symptoms can present themselves such as constant dryness, burning, itching or a foreign body sensation. Ironically, dry eyes often cause watery eyes in an attempt to combat inadequate tearing.
Dry eye syndrome is caused by a number of factors. One 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. Dry or dusty air, and excessive heating or air conditioning are also known to cause or worsen dry eyes. Additionally, some diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis or others, excessive computer use or contact lens wear can add to the chances of dry eye syndrome.
Dry eye symptoms can often be alleviated with lubricating eye drops to reduce dryness. 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 enhance tear production.
When lubricating drops aren’t enough, your optometrist might recommend Lacrisert, which is placed on the eyelid and continually releases lubricants at various intervals. You might also want to try punctual plugs which help the eye maintain moisture by reducing the drainage of tears. Some eye care professionals will recommend dietary or environmental modifications to lessen discomfort.
In most cases, dry eyes do not cause any permanent damage but can be a nuisance. Nevertheless, severe dry eyes increase the risk of infection so it is worthwhile to consult with your optometrist.
Particularly during the winter, it would help to make every effort to protect your eyes from dryness, cold winds and irritants. Wearing sunglasses when outside, and trying out humidifiers inside when the heat is blasting may be helpful.
If you are suffering from some of the symptoms listed above contact your optometrist as soon as possible!