Everyone has a thin layer of tears that coats the front surface of our eyes. These tears keep our eyes healthy and comfortable, are needed for both overall eye health and clear vision. Dry eye occurs when your eyes don’t produce enough tears or produce tears that don’t have the proper chemical composition.
Dry eye symptoms can result from the normal aging process, hormonal changes, exposure to certain environmental conditions, problems with normal blinking, or from medications such as antihistamines, oral contraceptives or antidepressant. Dry eye can also be a symptom of general health problems, such as arthritis, or can result from UV exposure and environmental irritants.
The common symptoms of dry eye include stinging, gritty, scratchy and uncomfortable eyes, fluctuating vision, and a burning feeling or a feeling of a foreign body within the eye. In moderate to severe cases, you may experience blurred vision, light sensitivity or even periods of excess tearing.
During an eye examination, your Optometrist focuses on your general health, use of medications, and your home and work environments to determine what may be causing dry eye symptoms. Your Optometrist will also use a high-powered microscope and special dyes to evaluate the quality, amount and distribution of tears to detect signs of dry eyes.
If dry eye is left untreated, it can be harmful. Excessive dry eye can damage and possibly scar the sensitive corneal tissues of your eye, impairing vision. Dry eye can make contact lens wear more difficult.
Dry eye is usually chronic, and although there is no cure, your Optometrist can offer treatment to manage the condition and improve your comfort. Artificial lubricating eye drops or ointments may be used, and in more server cases, small plugs may be inserted in the corner of the eyelids to slow drainage and loss of tears. Treating any underlying systemic diseases, or changing your diet to include items such as fish or flax seed oil, can also be helpful at times. New prescription medications are now available to help your body produce more of its own tears.
Source: Doctors of Optometry of Canada