Dry Eye

Dry Eye

Sometimes people do not produce enough tears or the appropriate quality of tears to keep their eyes healthy and comfortable.  This condition is known as dry eye.  

The eye uses two different methods to produce tears.  It can make tears at a slow, steady rate to maintain normal eye lubrication.  It can also produce large quantities of tears in response to eye irritation or emotion.  When a foreign body or dryness irritates the eye, or when a person cries, excessive tearing occurs.  

What are the symptoms?
The usual symptoms include:
  • stinging or burning eyes
  • scratchiness
  • stringy mucus in or around the eyes
  • excessive eye irritation from smoke or wind
  • excessive tearing
  • discomfort when wearing contact lenses
Excessive tearing from "dry eye" may sound illogical, but it can be understood as the eye's response to discomfort.  If the tears responsible for maintaining lubrication do not keep the eye wet enough, the eye becomes irritated.  Eye irritation prompts the gland that makes tears (called the lacrimal gland) to release a large volume of tears, overwhelming the tear drainage system.  These excess tears then overflow from your eye.  

What is the tear film?
When you blink, a film of tears spreads over the eye, making the surface of the eye smooth and clear.  Without this tear film, good vision would not be possible.  The tear film consists of three layers:
  1. an oily layer
  2. a watery layer
  3. a layer of mucus
What causes dry eye?
Tear production normally decreases as we age.  Although dry eye can occur in both men and women at any age, women are most often affected.  This is especially true after menopause.  

Dry eye can also be associated with other problems.  For example, people with dry eyes, dry mouth, and arthritis are said to have Sjogren's syndrome.  A wide variety of common medications-both prescription and over the counter-can cause dry eye by reducing tear secretion.  Some of these are:
  • diuretics
  • beta-blockers
  • antihistamines
  • sleeping pills
  • medications for "nerves" or
  • pain relievers
Treatment
The use of topical agents, such as artificial tears, are helpful in treating the symptoms of dryness.  There are also other treatments available, such as punctal plugs and a prescription drop called Restasis. 

If you have any questions about these treatments or about dry eye in general, please feel free to contact us.  
Share by: