Dry Eye Syndrome

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People have dry eye when people do not produce enough tears or the appropiate quality of tears to keep the eye healthy and comfortable.

Tears are produced by two different methods. One method produces tears at a slow, steady rate and is responsible for normal eye lubrication. The other method produces large quantities of tears in response to eye irritation or emotions.

Tears that lubricate are constantly produced by a healthy eye. Excessive tearing occurs when the eye is irritated by a foreign body, dryness or when a person cries.

The usual symptoms include: stinging or burning eyes, scratchiness, stringy mucus in or around the eyes, excessive eye irritation from smoke or wind, excess tearing, difficulty wearing contact lenses.

Excess tearing from dry eye sounds illogical, but if the tears responsible for maintenance lubrication do not keep the eye wet enough, the eye becomes irritated. When the eye is irritated, the lacrimal gland produces a large volume of tears that overwhelm the tear drainage system. These excess tears then overflow from your eye.

Tear production normally decreases as we age. Although dry eye can occur in both men and women at any age, women are most often affected. This is especially true after menopause.

Dry eye can also be associated with other problems, like arthritis. A wide variety of common medications--prescription and over the counter--can cause dry eye by reducing tear secretion. It is important to tell the ophthalmologist the names of all the medications you are taking.

Eyedrops called artificial tears are similar to your own tears. They lubricate the eyes and help maintain moisture. Artificial tears are available without prescription. You may try many brand on the market to find the one you like best.

Preservative-free eyedrops are available if you are sensitive to the preservatives in artificial tears. If you need to use artificial tears more than every two hours, preservative-free brands may be better for you.

Conserving your eye's own tears is another approach to keeping the eyes moist. This is done by placing small plugs into the punctum, the small opening on the inside of the bottom lid that lets the tears drain into the nose.

Tears evaporate like any other liquid. You can take steps to prevent evaporation. In winter, when indorr hear is on, a humidifier or a pan of water on the radiator adds moisture to dry air.


Some people with dry eye complain of "scratchy eyes" when they wake up. This can be treated by using an artifical tear ointment or thick eyedrops at bedtime.