Dry eye is a condition that occurs when your eyes do not produce enough tears or the tears evaporate too quickly. This lack of adequate lubrication can cause a range of symptoms, including discomfort and vision problems. Understanding dry eye is essential to managing it effectively and maintaining your eye health.
Dry eye is a condition where your eyes fail produce enough tears, or the tears they do produce are of poor quality. Tears are vitally important for maintaining the health of the front surface of the eye and for providing clear vision. Dry eye is a common and often chronic problem, especially in older adults.
With each blink of the eyelids, tears spread across the front surface of the eye, known as the cornea. Tears provide lubrication, reduce the risk of eye infection, wash away foreign matter in the eye, and keep the surface of the eyes smooth and clear. Excess tears in the eyes flow into small drainage ducts in the inner corners of the eyelids, which drain into the back of the nose. When the production or drainage of these tears is out of sync, dry eye can occur.
Dry eye can be caused by a number of factors. Firstly, it can occur as a part of the natural aging process. Many people who are aged 50 or older experience some symptoms of dry eyes. Additionally, women are more likely to develop dry eyes due to hormonal changes caused by pregnancy, the use of oral contraceptives, and menopause.
Certain medical conditions can also lead to dry eye. These include diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma, Sjogren's syndrome, thyroid disorders and vitamin A deficiency.
Lastly, problems with the eyelids or blinking, and certain medications like antihistamines, decongestants, hormone replacement therapy, and antidepressants can also cause dry eyes.
Common signs and symptoms of dry eye include a stinging, burning or scratchy sensation in your eyes, stringy mucus in or around your eyes, sensitivity to light, redness, a sensation of having something in your eyes, difficulty wearing contact lenses, difficulty with nighttime driving, and watery eyes.
Dry eyes can lead to watery eyes, because dryness on the eye's surface sometimes will over-stimulate production of the watery component of your tears as a protective mechanism. However, this "reflex tearing" does not stay on the eye long enough to correct the underlying dry eye condition. Additionally, some people with dry eyes also experience a "foreign body sensation"—the feeling of having something in your eyes.
If you've had prolonged signs and symptoms of dry eyes, including red, irritated, tired, or painful eyes, don't ignore them. Make an appointment with an optometrist.
Dry eye can damage eye tissue, scar your corneas, and impair your vision. An optometrist can measure the volume of your tears and the quality of them to determine whether you have dry eye. Your doctor can also identify underlying diseases or conditions that may be causing your symptoms and recommend treatment.
Living with dry eye can be challenging, but with the right knowledge and resources, it is manageable. By understanding what dry eye is, recognizing the signs and symptoms, and knowing when to see an optometrist, you can take proactive steps to maintain your eye health.
If you are experiencing signs and symptoms of dry eye, take the next step in finding relief and maintaining your eye health. Visit Inland Family Optometry at our office in Chino, California, or call (909) 345-9809 to schedule an appointment today.