What is dry eye?
The tears your eyes normally produce are necessary for overall eye health and clear vision. Dry eye occurs when your eyes do not produce enough tears or produce tears that do not have the proper chemical composition.
What causes dry eye?
Dry eye symptoms can result from the normal aging process, hormonal changes, exposure to certain environmental conditions, problems with normal blinking or from medications such as antihistamines, oral contraceptives or antidepressants. Dry eye can also be symptomatic of general health problems, such as arthritis, or can result from UV exposure and environmental irritants.
What are signs/symptoms of dry eye?
The common signs and symptoms of dry eye include stinging, gritty, scratchy and uncomfortable eyes, fluctuating vision, and sometimes having a burning feeling or a feeling of something foreign within the eye. Some people experience tearing as a result of dry eye. This is a natural reflex of the eyes to create more tears to comfort the eye in response to dryness.
How is dry eye diagnosed?
During the examination, your optometrist will ask you questions about your general health, your use of medications and your home and work environments to determine any factors which may be causing dry eye symptoms. This information will help your optometrist decide whether to perform additional dry eye testing. The use of a high-powered microscope known as a slit lamp, in conjunction with special dyes, will allow your optometrist to evaluate the quality, the amount and the distribution of tears to detect signs of dry eyes.
Can dry eye be cured?
Dry eye is usually chronic and cannot be cured, but your comfort can be improved and eye health maintained through use of artificial tears. For more severe dry eye, gels and ointments can be used, especially at bedtime. Your optometrist is the best source to advise on the best drops for you. In some cases, small plugs may be inserted in the corner of the eyelids to slow drainage and loss of tears. Treating any underlying systemic disease, or a change of diet to include items such as fish or flax seed oil can also be helpful at times. New prescription medications are now available to help your body produce more of its own tears.
Will dry eye harm my eyes?
If dry eye is left untreated, it can be harmful. Excessive dry eye can damage tissue and possibly scar the sensitive corneal tissues of your eye, impairing vision. Dry eye can make contact lens wear more difficult due to increased irritation and greater chance of eye infection. To keep dry eye symptoms in check, you and your optometrist need to work together. Follow your optometrist’s instructions carefully. If you have increased dryness or redness that is not relieved by the prescribed treatment, let your optometrist know as soon as possible.