Dry eyes are sore and uncomfortable. They may feel irritated, and gritty, as though something was in them. They may itch and burn and appear red. Blinking may help, but only temporarily. Rubbing only makes the problem worse, bringing no lasting relief and possibly damaging the delicate tissue around the eye.
Normally the surface of the eye is washed by a steady flow of tears which spread across the surface of the eye and then wash out through the tear ducts. If there is a lack of tears or if they do not spread evenly across the surface of the eyes, then the eyes may become dry.
Advancing age, in itself, can cause a shortage of tears. Those who suffer from a variety of medical conditions, the most common of which are rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes, are likely to experience a lessening of tear production. Certain medications, including common pain medications and decongestants, may also interfere with tear production, as long as the medications are being taken. Woman, especially post-menopausal women, suffer more commonly from dry eyes than do men.
Even if there is a sufficient low of tears, the eyes may become dry if the eyelid is damaged or inflamed.
Occasional drying causes the eyes no damage, but if the dryness continues over a long period of time, serious damage may occur to the eye. Tears prevent infections from entering the eyes. A lack of tears or improperly spreading tears makes the eyes more vulnerable to frequent infection, as well as damage to the eye itself.
To determine if you have chronic or seriously dry eyes, your doctor will conduct two tests, a simple one to determine if your eyes are producing enough tears and a more complex one to determine the composition and effectiveness of the tears you do produce. He/she will also discuss your symptoms, and examine the eye itself as well as the eyelid.
It should be noted that, in dry, windy weather, anyone may experience dry eyes. Exposure to dust may also cause the eyes to become dry, as may the use of contact lenses, which prevent moisture from passing directly over the eye’s surface. Those who stare for long periods of time at computer screens or televisions, are likely to feel their eyes becoming dry. These circumstances are usually temporary and, if bothersome, can be relieved with the use of over-the-counter eye drops.
For more seriously dry eyes, there are several solutions. Your physician will suggest the treatment most suited to the cause of your dry eyes. Treatments may include eye drops or ointments, or warm compresses or medications to decrease inflammation caused by conditions like blepharitis. They may include treatments to the tear ducts to keep tears on the surface of the eyes longer or surgery to correct problems with the eyelids themselves. It is important to follow physician suggestions carefully in order to preserve your sight.
There are a few simple things that can be done by anyone to help prevent eye dryness. These include; taking breaks from activities that involve close concentrated eye usage, add moisture to your indoor environment, protect your eyes from sun and wind, use a mild soap when washing the eyes, rinse well with tepid water, and make a concentrated effort to blink more often. Increase your fluid intake. Eat a balanced diet, including adequate Vitamins A, and do not smoke.