Our eyes need tears to stay healthy and comfortable. If your eyes do not produce enough tears, it is called dry eye. Dry eye is also when your eyes do not make the right type of tears.
Some of the symptoms of Chronic Dry Eye:
- Eyes are stinging and burning
- There is a scratchy or gritty feeling like something is in your eye
- There are strings of mucus in or around your eyes
- Eyes are red or irritated.
- It is painful to wear contact lenses
- You have lots of tears in your eyes
- Having a lot of tears in your eyes with “dry eye” might sound odd. But your eyes make more tears when they are irritated by dry eye.
People tend to make fewer tears as they get older due to hormonal changes. Both men and women can get dry eye. However, it is more common in women—especially those who have gone through menopause.
Some of the causes of Chronic Dry Eye:
- Certain diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, Sjögren’s syndrome, thyroid disease, and lupus
- Blepharitis (when eyelids are swollen or red)
- Entropion (when eyelids turn in); ectropion (eyelids turn outward)
- Being in smoke, wind or a very dry climate
- Looking at a computer for a long time (reduced blinking)
- Using contact lenses for a long time
- Having refractive eye surgery, such as LASIK
- Taking certain medicines, such as:
- Diuretics (water pills) for high blood pressure
- Beta-blockers, for heart problems or high blood pressure
- Allergy medicines (antihistamines)
- Sleeping pills
- Anxiety medicines
Dry Eye Treatments
Your ophthalmologist might tell you to use artificial tears. These are eye drops that are like your own tears. You can use artificial tears as often as you need to. You can buy artificial tears without a prescription. There are many brands. Try a few until you find a brand that works best for you.
If you use artificial tears more than six times a day or are allergic to preservatives, you should use preservative-free tears. This is because if the tears with preservatives are used a lot, these chemicals may start to irritate your eyes.
Your ophthalmologist may suggest blocking your tear ducts. This makes your natural tears stay in your eyes longer. Tiny silicone or gel plugs (called punctal plugs) may be inserted in your tear ducts. These plugs can be removed later as needed. Your ophthalmologist could also recommend surgery that permanently closes your tear ducts.
Increasing Your Tears
Your ophthalmologist might have you use a special eyedrop medication. This helps your eyes make more of their own tears.
Treating Dry Eye Culprits
If your eyes are irritated, your ophthalmologist can treat those problems. They may recommend:
- prescription eye drops or ointments
- warm compresses on the eyes
- massaging your eyelids
- certain eyelid cleaners
Dry Eye Prevention Tips
- Try not to use a hair dryer, if possible.
- Stay away from very warm rooms. In the winter, add moisture to the air with a humidifier. Or put a pan of water near your heater or radiator.
- Protect your eyes from drying wind by wearing wrap-around glasses outside.
- Talk to your ophthalmologist about adding omega-3 fatty acids to your diet for dry eye relief. They are found naturally in oily fish (such as salmon, sardines, tuna, trout, and anchovies), and in flaxseeds. Omega-3 fatty acids can be added as a dietary supplement (pill or tablet).
- Do you wake up with dry and scratchy eyes? Use artificial tear ointment or thick eye drops just before you go to bed.
The information contained here was adapted from EyeSmart – The American Academy of Ophthalmology