Dry Eye Syndrome occurs when there when your eyes do not produce enough of your lubricating tears. There are two kinds of tears that are produced by your eyes. The first kind, lubricating tears, contain oil, nutrient proteins, mucous, water, and antibodies which help to nourish and protect the front surface of your eyes. The second kind, reflex tears, are produced, for example, when you cry, injure your eye, or have eye irritation. Reflex tearing will also occur when you have a shortage of your good, lubricating tears. This is the reason why your eyes may water when they are dry.
Common symptoms of dry eye syndrome are redness, burning, itching, fluctuation of vision, feeling of sand or grit in your eyes, contact lens discomfort, light sensitivity, watery eyes, and tired eyes.
There are many different causes of dry eye syndrome. Some common causes are age, hormonal changes, some medications, and some diseases (i.e.. Sjogren’s or Parkinson’s). Hot, dry, or windy conditions, contact lens wear, reading, computer use, and smoke can aggravate dry eye.
An evaluation with your eye doctor can determine if you have dry eye syndrome and what treatment options are best for you. At your evaluation, we can measure your rate of tear production, see the amount of time it takes for your tears to evaporate, and measure your tear osmolarity, which is the accepted standard for diagnosing dry eye disease. The doctor can then design the best option for treating your level of dry eyes.
The most common treatment for dry eyes is the use of artificial tears to replace your shortage of lubricating tears. If artificial tears are not sufficient, the doctor may recommend the use of punctal plugs. These are temporary or permanent plugs used to close the punctum (drainage hole) in your eyelid. The purpose of this is to keep your natural lubricating tears in your eye longer. Your doctor may also recommend prescription medications that can help stimulate your tear glands to produce more of your natural tears.