Dry eye is a disorder in which people are unable to produce enough of the natural tears that protect the eye and keep it moist.
Their eyes are not able to leave a “tear film” that washes and soothes the eye every time they blink. The eye then becomes dry and irritated. The irritation and discomfort caused by dry eye can interfere with vision. In rare cases, dry eye can become serious without proper care and treatment.
The risk of Dry Eye increases with age. Other risk factors include patients who have undergone refractive surgery (LASIK), have severe allergies, are on certain medications, or are contact lens wearers. Those with rheumatoid arthritis and other diseases are also at increased risk.
Women are also more likely to develop Dry Eye. Approximately 6 million women and 3 million men have moderate to severe symptoms of Dry Eye. Women who are pregnant, on certain types of birth control, hormone replacement therapy or experiencing menopause also have increased rates of Dry Eye.
If you have dry eye, you may experience some of the following symptoms:
• Feeling a burning or stinging in your eyes
• Feeling like there are particles in your eyes
• A gritty, sandy feeling in your eyes
• Redness and inflammation of your eyes
• Stringy mucus in your eyes
• Extreme sensitivity, especially to cigarette smoke
There is no cure for dry eye. In order to replace the missing moisture in your eyes, you can use over-the-counter tear replacements called “artificial tears.” Artificial tears come in different brands with different ingredients. Ask your eye doctor to recommend one for you to use. There are also special ointments that can be used before you go to sleep to make sure your eyes stay moist at night.
Frequent use of these products for long periods of time may cause toxic irritation or an allergic reaction. It is very important to talk to your eye doctor before using these products.
If you have dry eye, there are a few things that you can do to help alleviate your symptoms. You can use a humidifier to help keep natural moisture in the air so your eyes will not dry out as quickly. You should make sure that your avoid hair dryers, harsh winds, overly warm rooms, and cigarette smoke whenever possible.
Also, when using a computer, remember to blink often and give eyes a rest from staring at the screen, apply a warm washcloth to soothe irritated eyes, and do not use harsh soaps or cleansers on around the eye area.