Dry Eye

Overview

Dry eye is caused by a lack of tears, which are necessary for the normal lubrication of eyes and to wash away particles and foreign bodies. Some people just don’t produce enough tears for healthy eyes, resulting in dry eye. In other people, the tears evaporate too quickly due to the fact that tear composition is not properly balanced. Women, particularly after menopause, are particularly likely to experience dry eye. People who work long hours at a computer are more likely to have dry eye, because they blink less often. Medications such as antihistamines, antidepressants and antihypertensive medications frequently make dry eye worse.

Warning Signs & Symptoms

Almost half of adult Americans regularly experience dry eye symptoms, which include burning, stinging, scratchiness, excessive irritation from the elements, discomfort from contacts and watering eyes. If the tears responsible for maintaining lubrication do not keep the eye moist enough, the eye becomes irritated. Eye irritation prompts the gland that makes tears to release a large volume of tears, overwhelming the tear drainage system.

Diagnosis

As part of an eye exam, your eye doctor can test to measure tear production. Newer methods of tear analysis can also evaluate the chemical composition of tears and enable the doctor to give appropriate medications to balance the tears to become more efficient in moisturizing your eye.

Treatment/Procedures

Fortunately, most dry eye is easily treatable. Artificial tears, or eye drops, help lubricate and are available without prescription. Your eye doctor can prescribe medications that help you produce more tears. Also, you may benefit from a punctal plug, which temporarily closes the small duct where tears drain from the eye.

Prevention

A wide variety of common medications can cause dry eye by reducing tear production. Be sure to tell your eye doctor the names of all medications you are taking. Patients can prevent their tears from evaporating by using a humidifier and avoiding overly dry, warm rooms, hair dryers, smoke and wind.