Dry Eye

What is dry eye?

Some people do not produce enough tears to keep the eye comfortable. This is known as dry eye. There are two kinds of tears: baseline tears are those that constantly lubricate the eye and reflex tears are those that are produced as a response to irritation or emotion. Tears that lubricate are constantly produced by a healthy eye. Reflex tears only occur when the eye is irritated or when a person cries.

What Are The Symptoms Of Dry Eye?

The usual symptoms include: Aching, stinging or burning eyes, blurry vision, scratchiness, stringy mucus in or around the eyes, eye irritation from smoke or wind, excess tearing and difficulty wearing contact lenses. Excess tearing from "dry eye" sounds illogical, but it is important that your eyes produce the proper amount of tears. Your eyes also must have the right balance of oil, water and mucus to protect your eyes. Without this balance, the eye stimulates your reflex tears because it is dry and irritated.

What Causes Dry 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. Medications can also cause dry eye by reducing tear secretion. Since these medications are often necessary, the dry eye condition may have to be tolerated or treated with "artificial tears" and or punctal plugs. Be sure to tell Dr. Burrell the names of ALL the medications you are taking, especially if your are using: Diuretics, Betablockers, Antihistamines, Sleeping pills, Medications for "nerves", Pain relievers or Alcohol.

How Is Dry Eye Diagnosed?

Often an ophthalmologist like Dr. Burrell is able to diagnosis dry eye by simply examining the eyes. Sometimes tests that measure tear production may be necessary. One widely used test, the Schirmer tear test, involves placing filter paper strips under the lower eyelids to measure the rate of tear production under various conditions.

How Is Dry Eye Treated?

Replacing the tears

Tears are replaced by using eye drops called artificial tears, which imitate all of the layers in the tear film. They lubricate the eyes and replace the missing moisture. Artificial tears are available without a prescription. There are many brands of artificial tears on the market. You may want to try several to find the brand that you like best.

Conserving the tears

Conserving your eyes' own tears is another approach to keeping the eyes moist. Tears drain out of the eye through a small canal into the nose (that is why your nose runs when you cry). Dr. Burrell may close these canals either temporarily or permanently. The closure conserves your own tears and makes artificial tears last longer.

Other methods

Tears evaporate like any other liquid. You can take steps to prevent evaporation, (which irritates the eyes), such as using a humidifier, or wearing glasses to protect from the wind. A person with dry eye should avoid anything that adds to dryness, especially smoking. If you suffer from dry eye syndrome, Dr. Burrell may help to provide you with needed relief via medications and or surgery.