Tears are necessary to keep your eyes healthy. Tears wash any dust or particles out of the eye and maintain moisture. Certain enzymes found in tears guard the eyes against bacteria that can be present in the eye.
In instances where the eyes do not produce sufficient tears, symptoms can be present such as perpetual dryness, burning, itching or a foreign body sensation. Ironically, occasionally dry eyes can cause watery eyes in an attempt to combat inadequate tearing.
There are several factors that contribute to dry eyes. Dry eyes are often age related as most individuals that suffer from dry eyes are adults, particularly women during menopause. Dry eye syndrome can also result from certain medicines such as diuretics, beta blockers, birth control pills or others. Climate that is especially dry, or indoor dry heating or air conditioning are also known to cause or worsen dry eyes. Additionally, some diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis or others, continual computer use or usage of contact lenses can contribute to dry eye syndrome.
The preferred treatment to try is usually lubricating eye drops which often work to reduce dryness. Your optometrist can tell you which eye drops to buy and how to use them. If non-prescription drops aren’t helpful your doctor might prescribe prescription drops that actually stimulate tear production.
If those don’t help, your eye care professional might suggest Lacrisert, which is placed on the eyelid and continually releases lubricating ingredients throughout the day. You may also want to try punctual plugs which help keep the eye moist by keeping tear flow at bay. Some eye care professionals will suggest you try ways for you to adapt your environment and your diet to reduce the symptoms as well.
In the majority of cases, dry eye syndrome will not cause any permanent damage but can be a discomfort. However, very serious dry eyes could make you more susceptible to infection so it is a good idea to speak to your eye doctor.
Especially during the winter, you should to make every effort to protect your eyes from dry, biting winds and particles. Using sunglasses when outside, and trying out a humidifier indoors when the heat is blasting may be helpful.
You don’t have to live with dry, itchy, burning eyes - visit your eye doctor as soon as possible!