Your eyes need tears to stay healthy. They wash any dust or particles out of the eye and maintain moisture. Certain enzymes found in tears protect the eyes from microorganisms that are sometimes found in the eye.
For individuals whose eyes do not produce sufficient tears, the results are often discomfort such as persistent dryness, stinging, scratchiness or a foreign body sensation. To the surprise of many, dry eyes often cause eyes to water excessively to try to make up for dryness.
There are several factors that contribute to dry eye syndrome. Dry eyes are often age related since it is usually adults that complain of dry eye syndrome, especially women during menopause. Dry eye syndrome can be a side effect of several medications. Dry or dusty air, and dry heat or air circulation are also known to cause or worsen dry eyes. Additionally, some diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis or others, prolonged computer use or contact lens wear can contribute to dry eyes.
Dry eye symptoms can often be relieved with lubricating eye drops to reduce dryness. It’s advisable to consult with your eye doctor to determine which eye drops to buy and how to use them. If over the counter artificial tears aren’t helpful you may need Rx drops that enhance tear production.
In more severe cases, your optometrist might recommend Lacrisert, which is placed on the eyelid and lets out moisturizing ingredients during the day. Another option could be punctual plugs which help keep the eye moist by controlling the let down of tears. Some eye care professionals might suggest you try nutritional supplements or environmental adjustments to relieve discomfort.
For the majority of individuals, dry eyes will not result in any real damage but can be an annoyance. However, severe cases could make you more susceptible to infection so it is a good idea to consult with your eye doctor.
Particularly in the wintertime, it would help to make every effort to defend your eyes from dry, cold winds and irritants. Using sunglasses when outside, and using humidifiers inside when the heat is blasting are steps that could help.
It’s not necessary to suffer from dry, itchy, burning eyes - schedule a visit to your optometrist right away!