Dry eye is the term for when your eyes are insufficiently moisturized, either because they do not produce enough tears or because the tears have an improper chemical composition. It often occurs during the natural aging process, but it can also form as a result of eyelid or blinking problems, certain medications (antihistamines, oral contraceptives, antidepressants), climate (low humidity, wind, dust), injury, and various health problems (arthritis, Sjögren’s syndrome).
In addition to being uncomfortable, dry eye can damage eye tissue, scar the cornea and impair vision. Dry eye is not preventable, but it can be controlled before harm is done to your eyes. Regular eye exams can detect dry eye early, even before symptoms become noticeable. Symptoms include:
- Irritated, scratchy, dry, uncomfortable or red eyes
- A burning sensation or feeling of something foreign in your eyes
- Blurred vision
New medications, like Restasis, are now available to increase a patients own natural tear production. Treatment for dry eye can take many forms. Non-surgical methods include blinking exercises, increasing humidity at home or work, and use of artificial tears or moisturizing ointment. If these methods fail, small plugs may be inserted in the corners of the eyes to limit tear drainage, or the drainage tubes in the eyes may be surgically closed.