Dry Eyes


Some of us do not produce enough natural tears or tears of proper quality to keep the eye moist and comfortable. The results can be a range of discomforts which include stinging, blurring, scratchiness, excess reaction to smoke or dust and even excessive tearing without apparent cause, a reaction to the dryness.

Natural tears that lubricate your eye should be produced constantly. This is in contrast with the temporary tears caused by emotion or an external provocation such as strong wind. Good vision is not possible without a proper film of these natural tears.

The eyes have a number of different glands producing your tear film. Some of these glands produce an oily outer layer that protects the tears from evaporating. The middle watery layer that lubricates the eyes and makes up the bulk of the tear, and an inner mucous layer that also lubricates as well as keeps the tear film well spread across the eye.

If the glands slow in regular production, then the larger lacrimal glands may start producing extra water to replace what is missing. Unfortunately, the larger lacrimal glands may not have precise control on how much water is produced. This can result in excessive tearing which in no way harms the eye, but can blur vision, and disguise the fact that dryness is the underlying problem.

Dry eye is more likely to occur as we age and is somewhat more common in women, particularly after menopause. It may also be associated with certain types of arthritis and medications.


Diagnosis and Treatment

Extreme dry eyes can potentially lead to serious problems, therefore we suggest an examination by an eye doctor if you feel that your eyes are dry. There are a number of simple tests that are used to make the proper diagnosis. Treatment depends on how dry the eyes are, and the cause of the dryness. If the dryness is caused by poor oil production or clogging of the oil glands, the treatment is different than if it is caused by lack of the watery part of the tear. Therefore, what works for one person's dry eyes may not work for the next.

The usual treatment involves using artificial tears to help lubricate and wet the eyes. Your doctor may also explain that waxy buildup can clog your oil glands and how proper eyelid hygiene can benefit you. In cases of very dry eyes, the doctor may suggest the use of collagen implants to block the ducts that drain the tears from your eyes. If this is successful then the ducts can be blocked permanently bringing significant relief to many patients. Doxycycline tablets may also provide relief in some cases.

You can also create an environment that helps you conserve natural tears -- using a humidifier during winter, and avoiding irritations such as high winds, and cigarette smoke. Computer use and extensive near work will tend to make eyes dryer because people in these situations tend to stare and concentrate, which exposes the eye to the air longer. You should make sure to blink several times every fifteen minutes to remoisten your eyes.

Dry eye is one of the most common problems optometrists deal with--I see this problem everyday in my practice. See your optometrist so that your dry eye problem can be addressed in the proper way.