Your eyes need tears to stay healthy. Tears wash out any small particles caught in the eye and keep the eyes moist and comfortable. They also contain enzymes that protect the eyes against microorganisms that are occasionally found in the eye.
For individuals whose eyes lack sufficient tears, symptoms can result such as persistent feelings of dryness, burning, scratchiness or the feeling of a foreign body in your eye. Ironically, occasionally dry eyes can cause watery eyes if the eyes over-stimulate tear production to defend against dryness.
There are several causes of dry eye syndrome. Dry eyes are often age related as most individuals that suffer from dry eyes are adults, particularly women during menopause. Reduction in tear production can also be a result of some medications such as diuretics, antidepressants, birth control pills among others. Environmental conditions that are particularly windy, or dry heat or air circulation are also known triggers. Additionally, certain systemic diseases or problems with producing tears, extended staring at a computer or contact lens wear can result in dry eyes.
The symptoms associated with dry eye syndrome can often be alleviated with lubricating eye drops to make up for the lack of natural tears. Your optometrist can show you which eye drops to purchase and how to use them. If over the counter options aren’t working your doctor might prescribe prescription drops that actually help your body to make more tears.
In more serious cases, your eye doctor might recommend Lacrisert, an insert placed inside the eyelid that periodically lets out lubricants at various intervals. Another option could be punctual plugs which help the eye maintain moisture by restricting tears from draining too quickly. Some eye doctors will discuss a few ways for you to adapt your environment or your diet to lessen the symptoms as well.
In most cases, dry eye syndrome does not affect your eyes permanently but can be an annoyance. However, very serious cases have a chance of making you more vulnerable to infection so it is worthwhile to speak to your eye doctor.
Especially during the wintertime, you should to try to safeguard your eyes from dry, biting winds and irritants. Wearing sunglasses when outside, and trying out a humidifier indoors when the heat is blasting are ways to reduce exposure and dryness.
If you are suffering from dry, itchy, burning eyes, it could be dry eye syndrome so contact your eye doctor as soon as possible!