Dry eye syndrome is a chronic lack of sufficient lubrication and moisture on the surface of the eye. In dry eye syndrome, the lacrimal gland or associated glands near the eye don’t produce enough tears, or the tears have a chemical composition that causes them to evaporate too quickly.Symptoms of dry eye syndrome are varied and may include persistent dryness, itching, burning, redness and the feeling that something is in your eye. Although it seems odd, sometimes watery eyes can result from dry eye syndrome, because the excessive dryness works to overstimulate production of the watery component of your eye’s tears.
What Causes Dry Eyes?
Dry eye syndrome has several causes. It occurs as a part of the natural aging process, especially during menopause; as a side effect of many medications, such as antihistamines, antidepressants, certain blood pressure medicines, Parkinson’s medications and birth control pills; or because you live in a dry, dusty or windy climate.Constant use of air conditioning or dry heating systems can also dry out your eyes. Another cause is insufficient blinking, such as when you are reading, watching TV or staring at a computer screen all day. Dry eyes also are a symptom of 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 is another cause. In fact, dry eyes are the most common complaint among contact lens wearers. Incomplete closure of the eyelids, eyelid disease and a deficiency of the tear-producing glands are other causes.
Treatment for Dry Eyes
Dry eye syndrome is an ongoing condition that may not be completely curable but the accompanying dryness, scratchiness and burning can be managed. Your doctor may prescribe artificial tears, which are lubricating eye drops that may alleviate the dry, scratching feeling. If artificial tears do not provide significant relief, your doctor may suggest a prescription medication or punctal plugs.