Are your eyes constantly irritated? If so, you could have dry eye syndrome. This condition can be cause by many factors, but it is a chronic state where the eyes do not have enough moisture and lubrication. Here is what you need to know.
What Is Dry Eye Syndrome?
Like the inside of your mouth and nose, your eyes have mucous membranes. These membranes need to be kept moist in order for your eyes to be comfortable and to function properly. Your tears are made of mucous, water, and oil, and when your eyes are working right, these tears keep your eyes lubricated each time you blink. If you don't produce enough tears, your eyes will become dry and irritated. If this continues, your eyes may become more susceptible to infection or may be damaged.
What Causes Dry Eye Syndrome?
Some people simply do not produce enough tear lubrication. Aging also plays a big role in decreased tear production. Just as your vision changes as you age, such as someone suddenly needing reading glasses, your tear production ability changes as well. Women often notice that their eyes feel drier once they reach menopause.
Prescription and over-the-counter medications can also dry the eyes out. Diuretics, which remove excess water from the body, and antihistamines, which dry out runny noses, often lead to dry eyes as a side effect.
Some diseases also affect tear production. Autoimmune diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis, may also result in chronically dry eyes. If the eyelid has been injured and the eyes can not close all the way, dry eye syndrome will also likely be a problem.
What Are the Symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome?
In addition to dry eyes, the eyes may feel gritty or feel like they have sand or some other debris in them. The eyes may become red and bloodshot. It can be harder to focus when your eyes are dry, and your vision may be blurry.
How Is Dry Eye Syndrome Treated?
The easiest way to treat chronically dry eyes is by using artificial tears. Thicker ointments are another option for preventing the eyes from drying out. There are both prescription and over-the-counter products. Your ophthalmologist should decide which one is right for you.
Another option the eye doctor may decide is the best course of treatment for your specific situation is plugging the tear ducts. This involves using tiny plugs, like the bathtub plug, to stop the tears from running down the drain. In some cases, the ducts are permanently closed to keep the liquid in the eyes.
For more information, contact an ophthalmology center near you.