A comprehensive list of today's common ailments and health conditions.

Dry Eyes

By Angela Young

Dry eyes is a condition caused by an imbalance to the tear duct system, causing an interruption in the normal process that keeps the eyes moisturized. This condition can be acute or chronic, and is caused by a number of things. A normal tear is made up of several components: water for moisture, oil for lubrication, mucus to help spread the liquid over the eye, and antibodies and proteins to help build a resistance against infection. When eyes are dry, this can lead to other symptoms and problems.

Dry eyes Symptoms

When dry eyes is present, the eyes are not properly moisturized and lubricated, causing a number of symptoms and potential problems. One symptom may be intermittent overflow of tears. When the eye is experiencing dryness, it creates an alert which leads to an abundance of tears that may even run down the face. One might assume that this could correct the problem, but when the proper mixture of oils and lubricants are not present, simple water will only wash away debris and not properly moisturize the eye. Other symptoms of dry eyes include:

  • A sensation of grit, dirt or a foreign body in the eye
  • Pain
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Itching
  • Redness
  • Blurry vision

Dry Eyes Causes

When there is an imbalance in the flow of tears or certain portions of the eye are dried out, this may lead to dry eyes. Excessive exposure to dry air, such as that from air conditioning, heat or wind, can cause the eye to dry out and become temporarily unable to produce the proper mixture of tears. There are other conditions that may lead to dry eyes and a brief list follows:

  • Aging
  • Menopause
  • Medication side effects, especially with antihistamines and birth control pills
  • Problems with eye structure, due to genetics, birth defects or injuries
  • Certain diseases that interrupt the ability to make tears, including rheumatoid arthritis, collagen vascular diseases and Sjogren's syndrome

Dry Eyes Diagnosis

Most often, diagnosis of dry eyes is based upon symptoms alone. Occasionally, a doctor will provide you with a questionnaire and the score will help to determine if dry eyes is indeed causing your symptoms. In more complicated cases, there are advanced tests available that measure tears. These can also be effective in diagnosing this condition.

Dry Eyes Treatment

There is no current cure for chronic or recurring dry eyes. There are, however, many treatment options that can relieve symptoms quite effectively. You should consider each of the treatment options and discuss them with a medical professional. Some cases may require more in-depth treatment.

  • Ointments and artificial tears - this is the most common method of treatment, especially for acute dry eyes. Patients who experience this condition chronically can also benefit, but some trial and error may be in order. Eye drops and artificial tears work different for different people. Over-the-counter eye drops can be experimented with and should be used consistently, even when the eyes feel fine. Ointments may be necessary to keep the eyes from drying out overnight.
  • Punctal Occlusion - this procedure aims to close the tear ducts which act to drain tears out of the eye. Punctal occlusion will first be performed on a temporary basis to determine effectiveness. If treatment succeeds, a painless procedure will be recommended to permanently plug the tear ducts with silicone.
  • Restasis - this is a type of eyedrop available by prescription only. This medication aims to keep the eyes moisturized while helping your eyes to increase their own natural tear production.
  • Surgery - if other methods are ineffective, surgery may be necessary to close the tear ducts permanently. This is normally an outpatient procedure.

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