Dry eye syndrome is a condition that occurs when there are not enough tears to lubricate the eyes. This is how the eyes get their nutrients.
You need tears to keep the surface of your eyes healthy and to provide you with clear vision. When your eyes are dry, you either do not produce enough tears or the tears produced are low in quality. This condition is a common, chronic issue with people, especially in older adults.
When you blink, tears are spread across the front surface of the eye. This front surface of the eye is the cornea. Your tears provide your eyes with lubrication and also reduce the risk of eye infection while washing away any foreign particles in the eye and keep the surface of the eye smooth. This promotes clear vision.
If you produce too many tears, they will flow into small drainage ducts in the corners of the eyelids. These drainage ducts drain into the back of the nose. Experiencing symptoms of dry eyes can occur if the balance of tear production and drainage is not right.
What Are the Symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome?
The most common symptom of having dry eye syndrome is having eyes that are dry and uncomfortable. Other symptoms associated with dry eye syndrome include the following:
• Scratchy eyes
• Burning sensation in the eyes
• Foreign body like something is in the eyes
• Excess watering that causes more tears than normal
• Finding it difficult to wear contact lenses
• Experiencing blurry vision
If dry eye syndrome moves into the advanced stages, it may damage the front surface of the eye and hurt your vision. Dry eyes can develop for many reasons including age, gender, medications, medical conditions, environmental conditions, and more.
If you have dry eye syndrome, it can be a chronic condition. Your eye doctor can prescribe treatment to keep your eyes healthy and more comfortable. There are certain treatments that aim to restore the number of tears your eyes can produce. You may also be able to maintain the normal number of tears in the eye to reduce discomfort and to keep your eyes healthy.
What Causes Dry Eye Syndrome?
There are several different reasons you may have dry eye syndrome. One of the most common reasons people develop dry eye is age. Dry eyes can result from:
• Imbalances in the tear mixture and how quickly your tears evaporate from your eyes
• Not producing enough tears to keep your eyes healthy
• Age-related problems
• Medications you may take or antihistamines
• Environmental factors like living in a dry place
• Meibomian gland dysfunction
Inflammation along the edge of the eyelids, known as blepharitis, and other skin disorders can cause glands to be blocked. This makes you more likely to develop dry eye syndrome.
How is Dry Eye Syndrome Diagnosed?
During an eye exam, your eye doctor will ask questions about your medical history. They will also ask about any current medications you take and what kind of environment you work in. They may take a series of tests to determine the quality of the tears you produce as well as if your eyes produce enough.
How is Dry Eye Syndrome Treated?
To treat dry eyes, the main goal is to treat the root cause of the problem. For many patients, this may mean trying a combination of treatments like medication, making small lifestyle changes, and other options.
There are also eye drops that can increase your production of natural tears. Sometimes, a doctor will decide to block a patient’s tear ducts using punctal plugs. Punctal plugs help keep tears in the eye for longer, which can be helpful if tears evaporate from your eyes before they can deliver nutrients. They can either be temporary or permanent.
The kind of punctal plug you have will depend on the severity of your dry eye symptoms. Other treatments include ointments or eyelid cleaners for inflammation. Your eye doctor may also recommend some simple solutions, including using a humidifier, wearing sunglasses outside, and drinking more water.