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 tears which do not have the proper chemical composition.
What causes “dry eye?”
Dry eye symptoms can result from the normal aging process, hormonal changes, 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 other diseases or can result from chemical or thermal burns to the eye.
What are signs/symptoms of “dry eye?”
The common sign/symptoms include stinging, itchy, scratchy and uncomfortable eyes; and sometimes having 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. This is a natural reflex to comfort a dry eye.
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 tests. These tests use diagnostic instruments, which allow a highly magnified view of your eyes and sometimes use special dyes. Your doctor will evaluate the quality, the amount and the distribution of tears to detect signs of dry eyes.
Can “dry eye” be cured?
Dry eye usually cannot be cured, but your eyes’ comfort can be improved and eye health maintained through use of artificial tears. For more severe dry eye, gels and ointments can be used, especially at bedtime. In some cases, small plugs may be inserted in the corner of the eyelids to slow drainage and loss of tears. Treating any underlying systemic disease, or a change of diet can also be helpful at times.
Will “dry eye” harm my eyes?
If dry eye is untreated, it can harm your eyes. Excessive dry eye can damage tissue and possibly scar the cornea of your eye, impairing vision. Dry eye can make contact lens wear more difficult due to increased irritation and greater 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 that is not relieved by the prescribed treatment, let your optometrist know as soon as possible.