Tears are an essential part of eye health. Tears wash out any small particles that may be in the eye and maintain moisture. They also contain enzymes that protect the eyes against bacteria that can be found in the eye.
For individuals whose eyes lack sufficient tears, symptoms can present themselves such as perpetual dryness, burning, scratchiness or a foreign body sensation. To the surprise of many, sometimes dry eyes cause watery eyes if the eyes over-stimulate tear production to compensate for inadequate tearing.
There are several causes of dry eye syndrome. Dry eyes are often age related since it is usually adults that complain of dry eye syndrome, and often women during menopause. Reduction in tear production is also a result of many medications. Dry or dusty air, and excessive heating or air conditioning are also known triggers. Additionally, certain systemic diseases or problems with producing tears, extended sitting in front of a computer screen which can limit blinking, or contact lens wear can add to the chances of dry eye syndrome.
The preferred treatment to try is usually lubricating eye drops which work by adding moisture. Your optometrist can show you which eye drops to buy and how to use them. If non-prescription artificial tears aren’t helpful you may need prescription drops that actually help your body to produce more tears.
In more serious cases, your optometrist might opt for Lacrisert, an insert placed inside the eyelid that lets out lubricating ingredients during the day. You may also want to try punctual plugs which help keep moisture on the eye by reducing the drainage of tears. Some eye doctors may recommend dietary or environmental modifications to relieve discomfort.
In most cases, dry eyes will not result in any sustained harm but can be a nuisance. Nevertheless, very serious cases could make you more at risk of infection so it is advised to speak to your eye doctor.
Especially during the winter, it is important to make every effort to defend your eyes from arid air, cold winds and irritants. Using sunglasses when going outdoors, and making use of humidifiers inside when the heat is blasting are steps that could help.
You don’t have to suffer from dry, itchy, burning eyes – contact your optometrist today!