You’d think most people would know if they had dry eye, but it’s not always that obvious. Eye redness, irritation, and inflammation are often attributed to foreign particles in the eye, infection, or other eye problems. Yet, more often than not, dry eye syndrome is the culprit. The common condition affects many people, especially during the summer. Here’s what you need to know about dry eye.
Dry eye is a medical condition that occurs when your eyes don’t receive enough lubrication or moisture. As a result, you may experience an itching or burning sensation, soreness, blurred vision, or you may feel like there’s something in your eye.
Dry eye develops when your eyes don’t produce enough tears, or your tears don’t consist of their usual components. Tears are produced by various glands in and around the eye and are composed of a mixture of three fluids: oil, water, and mucous. If your eye over- or under- produces any of these fluids, your tears will not lubricate the eye properly, which can result in dry eye syndrome.
Tears are also a natural eye protectant — they help clean the surface of your eye by washing away harmful dust and debris. If your eyes don’t produce normal tears, you are more at risk for eye infection.
As a chronic condition, dry eye is more common in women and elderly patients. The natural aging process, as well as hormonal changes during pregnancy or menopause, can cause chemical changes in the body that contribute to dry eye. Patients who have undergone LASIK or cornea surgery also experience dry eye, but discomfort is often temporary.
The primary symptom of dry eye is irritation. Your eye may be inflamed, red, and itchy. You may also feel like there’s grit in your eye, but no matter how much you rub or rinse, it won’t come out. If you consistently experience these symptoms and can’t attribute the cause to a stye or external irritant, you may have dry eye syndrome.
In order to receive dry eye treatment, you must first be diagnosed by an eye doctor. Since dry eye symptoms overlap with symptoms of other eye conditions, your doctor will need to rule out other possible causes of eye irritation. A careful examination by an optometrist or ophthalmologist, paired with a test for dry eye, will help determine a diagnosis.
Once you receive a diagnosis, dry eye treatment is available in multiple forms — from artificial tears to prescription medications and in-office procedures. In more extreme cases, surgery is available.
Your doctor may also recommend small changes to your lifestyle. Try to take breaks away from your computer or phone, drink more water, and wear sunglasses when you’re out in the sun. While these changes may seem simple, you can manage and even prevent dry eye symptoms by being mindful of healthy behavior.
Want to learn more about dry eye? Talk to the eye care experts at VisionFirst Eye Center — call us at (205) 949-2020 or schedule your consultation online today!