Dry eye is a common and often chronic disease and can usually be diagnosed in an annual eye exam. It is particularly common in older adults, in which there are insufficient tears to lubricate and nourish the eye. Tears are necessary for maintaining the health of the front surface of the eye and for providing clear vision. People with dry eyes either do not produce enough tears or have a poor quality of tears. Dry eyes can result from an improper balance of tear production and drainage. It can also be caused by an inadequate amount of tears or poor quality of tears.
The most common form of dry eyes is due to an inadequate amount of the water layer of tears. This condition, called keratoconjunctivitis sicca, is also referred to as dry eye syndrome.
People with dry eyes may experience symptoms of irritated, gritty, scratchy, or burning eyes, a feeling of something in their eyes, excess watering, and blurred vision. Advanced dry eyes may damage the front surface of the eye and impair vision.
Treatments for dry eyes aim to restore or maintain the normal amount of tears in the eye to minimize dryness and related discomfort and to maintain eye health.
Dry eye can be caused by many factors including
- medical conditions
- environmental conditions
Long-term use of contact lenses can be a factor in the development of dry eyes. Refractive eye surgeries, such as LASIK, can also contribute to decreased tear production and dry eyes.
The primary approaches used to manage and treat dry eyes include adding tears, conserving tears, increasing tear production, and treating the inflammation of the eyelids or eye surface that contributes to the dry eyes.
Your eye doctor may recommend artificial tears, which are lubricating eye drops that may alleviate the dry, scratchy feeling and foreign body sensation of dry eye. Prescription eye drops for dry eye go one step further: they help increase your tear production. In some cases, your doctor may also prescribe a steroid for more immediate short-term relief.
Another option for dry eye treatment involves a tiny insert filled with a lubricating ingredient. The insert is placed just inside the lower eyelid, where it continuously releases lubrication throughout the day.
Eye doctors sometimes recommend nutritional supplements as part of a dry eye treatment plan. Studies have found that supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids can decrease dry eye symptoms. Mild dehydration often makes dry eye problems worse. Simply drinking more water sometimes reduces the symptoms of dry eye syndrome.
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