Dry eye is a condition where your tears are unstable and inadequate, thus unable to provide your eyes with enough lubrication. Dry eyes feel very uncomfortable, and you may experience a stinging or burning sensation in your eyes. The tear instability eventually leads to inflammation and damage of the surface of the eye, resulting in vision problems.
Dry eye is a result of tears not working correctly. Women are more susceptible to dry eye disease due to changes in hormones that may affect tear production. Dry eye disease is also common in older adults. As people age, their bodies begin to make fewer tears.
Other common causes of dry eye include:
Some medications such as treatments for high blood pressure and depression.
Environmental factors such as dry air, wind, or smoke.
Long-term conditions like Sjogren’s disease and diabetes.
Allergies that affect eyes.
Reduced blinking by spending too much time looking at screens.
Laser eye surgery.
Wearing contact lenses.
Skin conditions near or on the eyelids.
Deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids or vitamin A.
Tears are made of fatty oils, water, protein, growth factors, electrolytes, and substances that fight bacteria. This mixture enables you to see clearly by keeping the surface of your eyes smooth. You may experience the following symptoms if you have dry eye:
Eyelids stick together when you wake from sleep.
Stringy mucus in and around your eyes.
Eye sensitivity to light, smoke, and wind.
Feeling like you have sand in your eyes.
Burning sensation, soreness, and grittiness in the eyes.
Blurred vision, usually at the end of the day.
Eye fatigue after reading for a short time.
There is no permanent cure for dry eye. However, there are several ways you can maintain moisture in the eyes. These options can protect your vision and reduce symptoms. Typically, treatment involves the use of eye drops and treatments that aid in moistening the eyes.
Your doctor will perform your eye examination by first using eye drops on your eyes. He or she can do a tear breakup time test that involves examining how long your tear film will remain after you blink.
Your doctor can also use a small piece of paper to test how moist your eyes are by using the Schirmer’s test. Lastly, your doctor may also choose to use a slit-lamp test by using a microscope to examine whether your eyes are producing adequate tears.
There are different prescriptions and treatments for dry eye depending on the severity of the symptoms and the underlying causes of the condition. Sometimes all you may require to do is change the medication that causes your eyes to dry.
Your doctor may also recommend the use of over-the-counter artificial tears, moisturizing ointments, or gels to constantly moisten your eyes. In more serious cases, your doctor may recommend prescription eye drops to help increase tear production.
You may also need to get punctual plugs that go in the opening of your tear duct and help keep tears in the eyes longer. In rare cases, your doctor may suggest surgery to tighten your lower eyelids to help your eyes retain tears.
For more on dry eye, visit Canterbury Vision Care at our office in West Boylston, Massachusetts. You can call (508) 854-0595 today to schedule an appointment.