The eye is made to have a constant flow of tears that keeps it lubricated. This constant flow of moisture washes away infection-causing germs and actually preserves your sight. It’s not just about the way the eye feels, which can be pretty bad if you experience dry eye.
When there is an imbalance of moisture around the eyes, your eyes cannot necessarily get the special proteins they need. It is common for dry eye sufferers to experience:
- Pain or pressure in the eyes
- Sensitivity to light
- A foreign body sensation in the eye
- Itching and irritation
- Fluctuating vision
- Blurred vision
In extreme cases, especially if the eye is not treated, this may lead to permanent blurred vision or even blindness. There are times when a person experiencing dry eye may suddenly have excess tears running down the cheeks, which may be surprising, especially to the person experiencing it. The nervous system has informed the body that something is wrong and it is flooding the eye with tears to compensate.
What Causes Dry Eyes?
Some people who suffer dry eyes may have an imbalance in the eye’s natural tear-flow system. There are both internal and external explanations. In some cases, dry air can be a major contributor. So if you live in a desert, you may want to be especially aware and careful. Some people may also experience dry eyes due to:
- The natural aging process (especially menopause)
- Prescription drugs like antihistamines, anti-depressants and birth control pills
- Diseases like Sjogren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and collagen vascular disease can cause dryness of the eye
What Is the Best Way to Treat Dry Eyes?
Especially when caused by disease, there is no cure for dry eyes. However, you do not have to continue to suffer the symptoms. Instead, you can treat the symptoms. There are a few basic approaches that doctors typically take:
- Artificial Tears and Ointments: Artificial tears are the first line of defense for chronic dry eyes. They are generally available over-the-counter at any major pharmacy. Even when your eyes feel fine, you should still continue to use the drops to protect your eyes.
- Medicated Eye Drops: If artificial tears don’t provide relief then your doctor may recommend a regimen of stronger eye drops. Chronic dry eyes cause inflammation and inflammation causes more dry eye symptoms. These eye drops often contain anti-inflammatory benefits to stop that cycle and provide significant relief. However, many of these medications carry side effects if used for long periods.
- Temporary Punctal Occlusion: It may be necessary to close the tear-draining ducts in the eye. These keep more moisture in the eyes. Your doctor may use a temporary, dissolving plug that is inserted into the tear duct drain in the lower eyelid to find out if permanent plugs would be recommended.
- Permanent, Non-Dissolving Punctal Plugs: If doctors find that temporary plugs work well, they may insert permanent plugs. These are non-dissolving plugs that will be inserted into the tear ducts with the help of a mild anesthetic. It increases tear production by blocking the area through which tears normally drain out of the eye.
If you are suffering from dry eyes, don’t treat it alone or simply assume that it will go away. Over-the-counter tears may be the best thing for you. But if you would like to keep your eyes healthy and comfortable, take care of your dry eyes early by getting annual eye exams.