To maintain vision and comfort, the eye depends on a flow of tears to provide constant moisture and lubrication. Tears are a combination of water, for moisture; oils, for lubrication; mucus, for even spreading; and antibodies and special proteins, for resistance to infection. These components are secreted by special glands located around the eye. When there is an imbalance in this tear system, a person may experience dry eyes.
When tears do not adequately lubricate the eye, a person may experience:
• Light sensitivity
• A gritty sensation
• A feeling of sand in the eye
• Itching • Redness
• Blurring of vision
Sometimes a person with dry eyes will have excess tears running down their cheeks, which may seem confusing. This happens when the eye isn’t getting enough lubrication. The eye sends a distress signal through the nervous system for more lubrication. In response, the eye is flooded with tears to try to compensate for the underlying dryness. However, these tears are mostly water and do not have the lubricating qualities or the rich composition of normal tears. They will wash debris away, but they will not coat the eye surface properly.
In addition to an imbalance in the tear-flow system, dry eyes can be caused by situations that dry out the tear film. This can be due to dry air from air conditioning, heat or other environmental conditions.
Other conditions that may cause dry eyes are:
• The natural aging process, especially menopause.
• Side effects of certain drugs such as antihistamines and birth control pills.
• Diseases that affect the ability to make tears, such as Sjogren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and collagen vascular diseases.
• Structural problems with the eyelids that don’t allow them to close properly.
Treatment depends on the cause of dry eyes. For example, when the cause is a systemic condition such as rheumatoid arthritis, proper treatment of the condition will lead to more comfortable eyes and clearer vision.
Ocular treatment options include:
If you’re unsure where to start or if the symptoms you’re experiencing are a result of dry eye, we are here to help. Schedule an appointment online today.