Your eyes need tears to stay healthy. They wash any dust or particles out of the eye and maintain moisture. They also contain enzymes that eliminate bacteria that are present in the eye on occasion.
When the eyes lack sufficient tears, symptoms can present themselves such as perpetual feelings of dryness, stinging, scratchiness or a foreign body sensation. Ironically, dry eyes often cause watery eyes to try to make up for inadequate tearing.
Dry eyes are a result of a several reasons. Dry eyes are often age related as most individuals that suffer from dry eyes are adults, and often women during menopause. Reduction in tear production can also result from certain medicines such as antihistamines, antidepressants, birth control pills among others. Environmental conditions that are particularly dry, or indoor dry heating or air conditioning can also cause or worsen dry eyes. Additionally, certain systemic diseases or problems with tear production, continual sitting in front of a computer screen or usage of contact lenses can cause dry eyes.
Dry eye symptoms can often be alleviated with artificial tears to put moisture back into the eye. Your optometrist can instruct you which eye drops to get and how to use them. If over the counter drops aren’t working you may need prescription drops that stimulate tear production.
With more serious cases, your optometrist might recommend Lacrisert, an insert placed inside the eyelid that releases lubricants at various intervals. You might also want to try punctual plugs which help the eye remain lubricated by keeping tears from draining too quickly. Some optometrists might suggest you try dietary or environmental modifications to alleviate the symptoms as well.
For most individuals dry eyes do not cause any permanent harm but can be an annoyance. Nevertheless, very serious cases could make you more at risk of infection so it is worthwhile to consult with your optometrist.
Particularly in the winter, it would help to make sure to protect your eyes from dryness, cold winds and particles. Wearing sunglasses when outside, and making use of humidifiers inside when the heat is blasting are ways to reduce exposure and dryness.
If you are suffering from some of the symptoms listed above schedule a visit to your optometrist right away!