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 poor quality tears which do not have the proper chemical composition.
What causes dry eye?
Dry eye symptoms can result from the normal aging process, exposure to 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 or can result from chemical or thermal burns to the eye.
What are signs/symptoms of dry eye?
The most common signs/symptoms include stinging, itchy, scratchy and uncomfortable eyes: and sometimes a burning feeling or a feeling of something foreign within the eye. You may experience increased dry eye symptoms on awakening. Some people experience an overly wet eye. Extra tearing is a natural reflex to comfort a dry eye and is usually a sign of poor tear quality or composition.
How is dry eye diagnosed?
During the examination, your doctor of optometry 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 doctor decide whether to perform dry eye testing. These tests use a highly magnified view of your eyes and special dyes. They allow your doctor to evaluate the quality, amount, and distribution of tears to detect signs of dry eyes. The test is not uncomfortable and tells the doctor a lot about your tear production.
Can dry eye be cured?
Dry eye cannot be cured, but your eyes’ sensitivity can be lessened and measures taken so your eyes remain healthy. The most frequent treatment is the use of artificial tears or tear substitutes that increase the quality of the tear film, for more severe dry eye, ointments or gels can be used, especially at bedtime. In some cases, small plugs may be inserted into the eyelid drainage canals to slow outflow and loss of tears.
Nutritional supplements may be recommended to support the function of the eyelid oil glands. Prescription medications may also be prescribed to reduce inflammation of the eye to improve necessary tear products.
Will dry eye harm my eyes?
If dry eye is untreated, it can harm your eyes. Excessive dryness can damage normally moist tissues and possibly scar the cornea of your eye, impairing vision. Dry eye can make contact lens wear more difficult due to increased irritation and can increase the chance of eye infection. To keep dry eye symptoms in check, you and your doctor of optometry need to work together. Follow your doctor’s instructions carefully. If you have increased dryness or redness of your eyes that is not relieved by the prescribed treatment, let your optometrist know as soon as possible so your treatment can be adjusted.