The condition known as dry eye occurs when the eye does not produce enough lubrication and moisture. Dry eyes can range from a slight irritation to a more serious case of inflammation to the front tissues in the eye. An imbalance in the tear duct system of the eyes can cause a person to experience dry eyes. Dry eye can be treated a few different ways, from over-the-counter eye drops, to prescription drops, or even surgery if necessary.
The symptoms of dry eyes are quite clear. A constant dryness, burning sensation and a scratchy feeling may be signs of dry eyes. Those who have dry eyes will be sensitive to light, have blurred vision, redness and bloodshot eyes, and may often feel like something is in their eyes. At times, this condition can cause an excessive amount of tears to flow, which may sound contradictory. However, this occurs because the eye is not getting the lubrication it needs, and sends a type of distress call to the nervous system to get more lubrication. Because of this, the eyes over compensate and start to fill with tears. These types of tears are more water-based than normal tears, which do not lubricate as well.
Dry eyes can be caused by a number of other issues besides the tear-flow system. The tear film of the eye may also become dried out, which is caused by environmental factors such as heat and air conditioning. Menopause can bring on dry eyes, as can side effects from certain birth control pills and antihistamines. Sjogren’s syndrome is a condition that affects the eye’s ability to make tears properly, as well. Problems in a person’s tear ducts are another cause of dry eye.
Dry eyes cannot actually be cured, but there are many ways to treat them. The most common treatment is over-the-counter eye drops and ointments. Even cheap artificial teardrops can be used often, and should be used even when the eye feels fine; this is so they stay lubricated. Special ointments can be used for times when dryness is severe, such as at night. For the most severe cases of dry eye, a prescription eye drop called Restasis may be prescribed from a doctor to help the eyes produce more tears.
A temporary punctual occlusion may be necessary to close up the tear ducts draining the tears from the eyes. This procedure is painless, but is also temporary. A permanent solution called permanent punctual occlusion may be performed, which is the use of silicone plugs to hold tears around the whole eye, keeping them moist. Some medications, including the use of a topical steroid, can help some cases of dry eye. Surgery is a last resort for dry eye, but can permanently close the ducts normally drain off tears through a person’s nose. As an outpatient procedure, this is a simple surgery and will not limit or alter any type of activity afterward.