Do You Have Dry Eyes?

Chronic dry eye (keratoconjunctivitis sicca) is a medical condition that affects millions of Americans. Caused by lack of tear production, the symptoms of dry eyes include:

  • A burning, scratching or stinging sensation
  • Redness in the eye
  • Blurred vision that improves with blinking
  • Frequent strained or tired eyes
  • Excessive tearing

There are different causes of dry eye. For some people, it is an imbalance in the composition of their tears. Other sufferers do not produce enough tears to keep their eyes lubricated properly. Certain medications, eyelid problems, and environmental factors can also cause dry eyes. Age is another factor in dry eyes. The problem is more common in those over the age of 40. Many women are affected by dry eyes after menopause, which is thought to be caused by hormonal changes. Dry eyes can also be caused by diseases such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome and other problems. People who live in dry, windy environments are also more likely to have problems with this condition, as are people who wear contact lenses.

The tears of the eye are made up of three separate components: oil, from the Meibomian glands in the eyelids; mucous, from cells deep inside the eyelids; and aqueous tears, from the lachrymal glands located in several places around the eye. All three components of your tears must work together properly to keep your eyes lubricated and comfortable.

Chronic dry eye is a serious condition that can damage the surface of the cornea and may increase your risk of eye infections. Although over-the-counter drops may alleviate some symptoms, it’s important to have this condition treated by your optometrist or ophthalmologist. Fortunately, effective treatments are available. Your eye doctor can diagnose whether you have dry eyes by giving you a simple test to assess your body’s ability to produce tears. This is the best way to accurately gauge the severity of your problem.

Treating dry eyes

After diagnosis, your eye doctor will advise you on the most effective way to deal with your dry eyes. Often, a series of measures are needed to properly relieve this condition. The most popular therapies include:

Artificial tears – These are a popular option for keeping the eye lubricated and can be purchased without a prescription. However, your eye doctor may recommend a specific brand for you.

Punctal plugs – These are used to plug some of the exit routes of your tears. This helps your tears remain in your eye longer. Most punctal plugs are removable, so they can be tried for a time to see how well they work.

Restasis® (Cyclosporine A) – This anti-inflammatory eye drop helps increase tear production in patients who suffer from chronic dry eye. Restasis is available by prescription only.

Diet – Many eye care professionals believe that staying hydrated by drinking enough water and limiting sodas, caffeine and alcohol can help patients with dry eyes. Foods that contain Omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish oil and flaxseed oil, can also help fortify the tear film in your eyes.

Environment – Dry and windy environments can aggravate dry eye. Using a humidifier can help alleviate dry eye symptoms as can wearing wraparound sunglasses and other protective eyewear while outside.

Related Conditions

Treating related eye conditions is also important if you suffer from dry eye. Blepharitis, an inflammation of the eyelashes and eyelid margins, can worsen dry eye symptoms. Blepharitis can be treated by your optometrist. Some dry eye patients suffer from ocular rosacea, an inflammatory eye condition that is often associated with rosacea of the skin. Symptoms of ocular rosacea include red, irritated eyes, blepharitis; frequent styes; foreign body sensation; and sensitivity to light. Ocular rosacea is a serious eye condition that can affect the cornea, and needs to be treated by an eye doctor.

Whether you have mild or severe dry eyes, your optometrist can help you treat it properly. So be sure to get professional help if you think you are suffering from dry eyes, or any other eye problem.

8 Responses

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  1. Posted by G.Vidile

    I have Macular Degeneration in both eyes In my last visit to my Dr my right eye was blurry scratchy and a little red. He found out I had a stye but above all a very dry eyes. Warm pads for stye (I used and the stye might have gone) But I have a question about the Lubricating Eye Ointment for dry eyes concerned about if the ointment would in anyway do damages to my MD.
    Thank u

    February 16, 2019 5:11 pm Reply
    • Posted by Reliant Medical Group

      There are a number of effective treatments for dry eyes, it’s best to consult with an ophthalmologist to find the treatment that works best for you. Some over-the-counter eye drops are only for temporary use, so consult with your doctor if you want to use them every day.

      February 18, 2019 9:43 am Reply
  2. Posted by Darlene Cardinal

    I’m post menopause, my eyes feel dry, and I have a small stye under my eyelid.

    January 1, 2019 11:44 pm Reply
  3. Posted by Gus

    I get styles frequently and in turn have gone to my optometrist who injects antibiotics into my eyelids after squeezing out excess which remedies the styles. This usually occurs in my right eye where my vision is perfect (my left eye eye has a contact lens). But I’ve noticed in my right eye, where I frequently get styles, that I tear up (only in the right eye) uncontrollably and I have to brink to clear up for reading occasionally. Do styles cause dry eye or vice Versa? Are they related? This has been an ongoing issue that I’m dealing with over the last 5 years (I’m a 46 year old male btw).

    September 17, 2016 1:35 pm Reply
  4. Posted by Mary L.Hunt

    Is there any evidence that the powders from an airbag
    Can contribute to chronic dry eye. I did not have a serious problem until after an auto accident. After the accident
    I had several eye infections before being diagnosed.

    July 27, 2016 9:19 am Reply
    • Posted by Reliant Medical Group

      Hi Mary. There have been instances in which airbags that have opened and caused a chemical injury to the eye, which could theoretically lead to dry eyes or keratitis. We recommend a follow up with an eye care professional, and see if other medications besides artificial tears may be of benefit.

      July 27, 2016 10:48 am Reply
  5. Posted by Ophthalmology Associates

    The term “dry eye” can be a little confusing, since one of the most common symptoms may be excessive watering or tearing! It makes more sense, though, when you learn that the eye makes two different types of tears.

    February 16, 2016 12:49 pm Reply
  6. Posted by Dave Thompson

    Just like your title says I have dry eyes. It is a problem I have had since I was little. Haven’t tried changing my diet yet to see if that helps with the dryness. I’ll give it a try for a few weeks and see if I see any difference in my eyes.

    May 27, 2015 10:22 pm Reply

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