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 that do not have the proper chemical composition.
What Causes "Dry Eye"?
Dry Eye symptoms can result from the normal aging process, 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 most common signs/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 that 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 usually use special dyes. These tests allow your doctor to evaluate the quality, the amount, and the distribution of tears to detect signs of dry eyes.
Can "Dry Eye" Be Cured?
Dry eye cannot be cured, but your eyes' sensitivity can be lessened and measures taken so your eyes remain healthy. The most frequent treatment is the use of artificial tears or tear substitutes. For more severe dry eye, ointment 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.
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 a 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.
This information provided by the American Optometric Association (AOA). To find out more, visit their website at www.aoa.org.