Dry Eye Syndrome

Dry eye syndrome (DES or dry eye) is a chronic lack of sufficient lubrication and moisture on the surface of the eye. Its consequences range from minor irritation to the inability to wear contact lenses and an increased risk of corneal inflammation and eye infections. 

  • Symptoms

    Signs and Symptoms of Dry Eye 
    Persistent dryness, scratchiness and a burning sensation on your eyes are common symptoms of dry eye syndrome. These symptoms alone may be enough for your eye doctor to diagnose dry eye syndrome. Some people with dry eyes also experience a "foreign body sensation" - the feeling that something is in the eye. And it may seem odd, but sometimes dry eye syndrome can cause watery eyes, because the excessive dryness works to overstimulate production of the watery component of your eye's tears. 

  • What Causes Dry Eyes? 

    In dry eye syndrome, the tear glands that moisturize the eye don't produce enough tears, or the tears have a chemical composition that causes them to evaporate too quickly.

    Dry eye syndrome has several causes. It occurs:

    1. • As a part of the natural aging process, especially among women over age 40.
    2. • As a side effect of many medications, such as antihistamines, antidepressants, certain blood pressure medicines, Parkinson's medications and birth control pills.
    3. • Because you live in a dry, dusty or windy climate with low humidity.

    If your home or office has air conditioning or a dry heating system, that too can dry out your eyes. Another cause is insufficient blinking, such as when you're staring at a computer screen all day.

    Dry eyes are also associated with certain systemic diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, rosacea or Sjogren's Syndrome (a triad of dry eyes, dry mouth, and rheumatoid arthritis or lupus).

    Long-term contact lens wear, incomplete closure of the eyelids, eyelid disease and a deficiency of the tear-producing glands are other causes. 

    Dry eye syndrome is more common in women, possibly due to hormone fluctuations. Exposure to smoke and other environmental irritants can also cause dry eyes (dust, pollen, smoke, air conditioners, heaters) as well as wind and sun exposure.

    Certain medications such as anti depressants, high blood pressure medications, hormone medications can contribute to tear deficiency. Underlying lid disease will also contribute to the symptoms of dry eyes.

  • Treatment

    Dry eye syndrome is an ongoing condition that treatments may be unable to cure. But the symptoms of dry eye - including dryness, scratchiness and burning - can usually be successfully managed.

    Your eye care practitioner may recommend artificial tears. These are drops that lubricate the eye, usually providing relief from the dry, scratchy feeling and foreign body sensation of dry eye. Prescription eye drops for dry eye go one step further: they help increase your tear production. In some cases, your doctor may also prescribe a steroid for more immediate short-term relief. 

    There are various options for the management of dry eyes. Your doctor will discuss all of the options and recommend the best course of action for you.

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