Dry Eye Syndrome
When we blink, tears form a film which spreads over the eye, making the surface smooth and optically clear and enabling good vision.
Dry eyes are caused by a lack of tears. Tears are necessary for the normal lubrication of your eyes and to wash away particles and foreign bodies.
There is constant pain from eye irritation, and a sandy or gritty sensation. You may also have strained or tired eyes after reading, even for short periods of time. If you wear contacts, they will likely feel uncomfortable. Having dry eyes for a while can lead to tiny abrasions on the surface of one or both of your eyes. If untreated, can lead to scarring or ulceration of the cornea (outer surface of the eye), and thus loss of vision.
Common causes of dry eyes include:
- Dry environment or workplace (wind, air conditioning)
- Sun exposure
- Smoking or second-hand smoke exposure
- Cold or allergy medicines
- An eye injury or other problem with your eyes or eyelids (like a drooping eyelid or bulging eyes)
- Sjogren's syndrome -- includes dry eyes, mouth, and mucus membranes, and often rheumatoid arthritis or other joint disorder
What you should do
The following steps may help your dry eyes:
- Try artificial tears, available as either drops or ointment. Ointments last longer, but are thicker and can cause blurry vision.
- Don't smoke. Avoid second-hand smoke, direct wind, and air conditioning.
- Use a humidifier, especially in the winter.
- Purposefully blink more often. Rest your eyes.
Call your doctor if:
- Your have red or painful eyes.
- You have flaking, discharge, or a lesion on your eye or eyelid.
- You have had trauma to your eye, or you have a bulging eye or a drooping eyelid.
- You have joint pain, swelling, or stiffness.
- You also have a dry mouth.
- Your dry eyes do not respond to self-care measures within a few days.
For more information, visit the Eye Resources section of our website.