If the eyes feel like they are burning and stinging, dry eye may be the culprit. Dry eye is a fairly common condition and is an uncomfortable one. The victim of dry eye may have a gritty or scratchy feeling like a foreign object is in the eye. Eyes may have strings of mucus around or in them or may have an excess of tears. While dealing with tears in the eyes may seem odd as a symptom of dry eye, dry eyes make more tears to try to deal with the irritation. Other signs include irritated or red eyes, particularly around irritants like smoke or the wind, and pain when attempting to wear contact lenses.
What is Dry Eye?
Dry eye is a condition that is quite common, occurring when the tears are unable to provide sufficient lubrication for the eyes. The eyes are always full of tears, regardless of emotion. They provide lubrication and moisture to help vision remain clear and keep eyes comfortable. Tears are a mix of water, which provides moisture; oils, which give lubrication; mucus, which permits even spreading of the tears; and special proteins and antibodies that help stave away infection. These ingredients have their source in special glands that are around the eye. Dry eye generally means that the tear system is not working properly. When dry eyes cause an influx of tears, this is known as reflex tearing. These tears do not aid in moisturizing the eye because they are made mostly of water and do not act as standard tears do.
Causes of Dry Eye
At the core, dry eye is caused by a dearth of adequate tears. This lack itself has two main causes, however. For some people, the heart of the problem is a decrease in tear production; for others, tears evaporate too quickly due to an imbalance in the tears' makeup. Decreased tear production can be due to aging and the related changes in hormones. It can also be the result of medical conditions that include:
- Thyroid disorders
- Rheumatoid arthritis.
Many medications or birth control can also be culprits. An increase of tear evaporation has fewer potential causes. These would include dry air, smoke, or wind, eyelid problems, and blinking fewer times than necessary, such as when concentrating on driving, reading, or computer work. Risk factors that increase the chances of dry eye include being of an age greater than 50 years old, being a woman, eating a diet that does not provide sufficient vitamin A, and using contact lenses.
Treatments for Dry Eye
Most people who suffer occasional bouts of mild dry eye symptoms find over-the-counter eye drops sufficient. These artificial tears help relieve symptoms. More serious and persistent symptoms require a closer look at the cause of dry eye in the individual. Some treatments have their focus on the reversal or management of a factor or condition that is an underlying cause of dry eye. Other options stop tears from draining too quickly from the eyes or improve the quality of the tears. In some cases, addressing a health issue behind the problem can help clear up the symptoms and discomfort of dry eye. If a medication is at fault, a doctor will recommend an alternative. Eyelid conditions are referred to eye surgeons who specialize in plastic surgery of the lids. A variety of medications are also used to treat dry eye. Some eye drops are used to control inflammation of the cornea. Drugs can be used to decrease inflammation of the eyelids. Tiny eye inserts are available for severe dry eye symptoms that work like artificial tears.
The articles on this website should not be used to start the use of dietary supplements or vitamins, natural or herbal products, homeopathic medicine or other mentioned products prior to a proper consultation with a doctor or certified health provider.