Terry L. Tucker, O.D.
Dry eye is a condition in which there are insufficient tears to lubricate and nourish the eye. Tears are necessary for maintaining the health of the front surface of the eye and for providing clear vision. People with dry eyes either do not produce enough tears or have poor quality of tears. Dry eye is a common and often chronic problem, particularly in older adults.
With each blink of the eyelids, tears are spread across the front surface of the eye, known as the cornea. Tears provide lubrication, reduce the risk of eye infections, wash away foreign matter in the eye, and keep the surface of the eyes smooth, and clear. Excess tears in the eyes flow into small drainage ducts, in the inner corners of the eyelids, which drain in the back of the nose.
Dry eyes can result from an improper balance of tear production and drainage.
People with dry eyes may experience symptoms of irritated, gritty, scratchy, or burning eyes, a feeling of something in their eyes, excess watering, and blurred vision. Advanced dry eyes may damage the front surface of the eye and impair vision.
Treatments for dry eyes aim to restore or maintain the normal amount of tears in the eyes to minimize dryness and related discomfort and to maintain eye health.
The development of dry eyes can have many causes. They include: Age, gender, medications, medical conditions, environmental conditions, and many other facts (long term use of contact lenses and refractive eye surgeries}.
Dry eyes can be chronic condition, but your optometrist can prescribe treatment to keep your eyes healthy, more comfortable, and prevent your vision from being affected. The primary approaches use to manage and treat dry eyes include adding tears, conserving tears, increasing tear production, and treating the inflammation of the eyelids or eye surface that contributes to the dry eyes.
Adding tears in mild cases of dry eyes can often be managed using over-the-counter artificial tear solutions. Preservative-free artificial tear solutions are recommended because they cause fewer irritations.
Conserving tears is an additional approach to reducing the symptoms of dry eyes by keeping the natural tears in the eyes longer. This can be done by blocking the tear ducts through which the tears normally drain.
Increasing tear production by using prescription eyes drops that help to increase production of tears can be recommended by you optometrist, as well as omega -3 fatty acid nutritional supplements.
Treatment of the contributing eyelid or ocular surface inflammation by prescription eye drops or ointments, warm compresses and lid massage, or eyelid cleaners may be recommended to help decrease inflammation around the surface of the eyes.