If your eyes often feel dry and scratchy, you may have a condition called dry eye. This occurs when the eyes are not kept moist enough by tears. Dry eye can be uncomfortable. It raises your chances of eye infection. Left untreated, dry eye can cause serious damage to the eye tissue. Over time, the cornea (the eyes protective covering) could even become scarred , resulting in vision loss. dry eye can also make wearing contact lenses uncomfortable. Dry eye is treatable.
SYMTOMS OF DRY EYE
Dry eye can cause one or more of the following symptoms:
(1) watery eyes
(2) scratchy, dry, irritated or generally uncomfortable eyes
(3) redness of the eyes (4) a burning sensation in the eyes
(4) a feeling of the presence of a foreign body in the eye
(5) blurred vision
(6) an apparent loss of the eye's normal clearness and luster
Two Types Of Tears
Normally, the eye is lubricated by tears, These lubricating tears are made by a gland in the eyelid. (those are different from the more watery reflex tears that are made when you cry) Every time you blink, lubricating tears spread over the surface of the eye. They then flow out of the eye and drain into the nose.
THE ANATOMY OF A TEAR
Lubricating tears form a film on the eye. This keeps the eye moist. These tears have three layers that work together to lubricate the eyes. (the oily outer layer helps prevent the tears from evaporating. This way their lubricating effects last longer. The watery middle layer cleanses the eye and washes away foreign particles and irritants. The sticky inner layer coats the surface of the eye, so it stays covered with tears longer.
Dry eye is caused by a problem with the lubricating tears. In some cases, not enough tears are made to moisten the eye. In others, enough tears are made but they don't have the right amounts of each layer to work right. The tears may be too watery or too sticky to properly lubricate the eye.
When the cornea is irritated, the body tries to fix this by making more tears. So, dry eye can actually cause more tears. So, dry eye can actually cause your eye to water. But since these tears are not able to properly lubricate the eye, making more of them does not solve the problem.
CAUSES OF DRY EYE
Dry eye can be caused by one or more of the following:
(1) age: as a person gets older, the eyes don't make tears as well as before. More than half of the people who have dry eye are over 50
(2) blinking problems: when you can't blink normally, your eye does not stay as moist.
(3) certain medications, including antihistamines, decongestions, birth control pills, and tranquilizers.
(4) environmental factors such as dry climate or excessive exposure to wind.
(5) allergies or hay fever
(6) chemical or thermal burns to the eyes
(7) certain health problems including arthritis and Sjogren's syndrome which is an autoimmune condition that affects mostly middle aged women.
Early detection of dry eye leads to more effective treatment and helps prevent damage to your eyes. If you have had symptoms of dry eye, make an appointment with your eye doctor. Your eyes will be examined using sophisticated diagnostic tools. You and your eye doctor will also discuss lifestyle habits, environmental factors, medications, and health conditions that could be causing your symptoms. Your examination and this discussion help your eye doctor determine the best form of treatment.
Dry eye can not be permanently cured, but there are effective treatments. Your eye doctor may recommend one or more of the following.
(1) specially formulated eye drops called lubricating eye drops or artificial tears which replace your natural lubricating tears
(2) soothing eye ointments that can be applied at bedtime
(3) the use of a humidifier in your home or office during periods of especially dry weather
(4) the insertion of tiny plugs in the tear drainage canal in the inner corner of each eye (for more severe cases of dry eye) These slow down the drainage of tears from the surface of the eye. This way tears remain on the eye longer and provide more natural lubrication. The plugs are inserted during a simple painless procedure.
(5) surgery to permanently close the drainage canals (in rare cases of dry eye) The surgery is simple and painless
See your eye doctor as often as recommended because there are several eye problems --beside dry eye--that can be treated more effectively if detected early.