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What You Need to Know About Dry Eye

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When the Tears Don't Stop 

Although having too many tears is not as uncomfortable as suffering from dry eye, watery eyes can be very annoying and may even interfere with your vision.

What causes watery eyes?

Watery eyes can occur if you have allergies, a cold, blocked tear ducts, dust or dirt in your eye, an eye infection or conjunctivitis (commonly called pink eye), or have a scratch on your eye. Blepharitis, an inflammation of the eyelids, can also cause watery eyes, as can blocked tear ducts. Although it may be hard to believe, watery eyes may actually be a symptom of dry eyes. If your eyes become too dry and uncomfortable, your body may compensate by producing too many tears.

How are watery eyes treated?

If you have a cold, watery eyes will eventually improve on their own. Allergy medication can stop your tears if allergies to molds, grasses and other allergens trigger your tears. Eye drops and other medications are helpful in treating infections and stopping the waterworks. Your eye doctor may recommend warm compresses if your tear ducts are blocked; although, in severe cases, surgery may be needed to open your ducts.

When should I see my eye doctor?

If your tears do not dry up in a few days, a trip to the eye doctor is always a good idea. Call your optometrist immediately if you experience watery eyes because you injured your eye, have chemicals in your eye, notice a discharge from your eye, have something stuck in your eye, have trouble seeing or are in pain.

If you have never suffered from dry eye, you might not appreciate how important your tears are to your eye health. Without enough moisture, your eyes can become dry, itchy, red and uncomfortable. Dry eye occurs when you do not make enough tears or the tears you produce are not high quality.

The Importance of Tears

Although you might not realize it, your eyes constantly produce tears. Tears are needed to keep the front of your eyes moist and comfortable. They help remove tiny specks of debris or dust from the eyes. When something falls into your eye, tear production increases, in an attempt to wash away the foreign object.

Symptoms of Dry Eye

Dry eye symptoms include:

  • A feeling that there is a foreign object in your eyes
  • Gritty or sandy feeling in the eyes
  • Burning and stinging
  • Itching
  • Eye fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Pain and redness
  • Difficulty reading or working on a computer for long periods of time
  • Stringy discharge
  • Discomfort when wearing contact lenses
  • Inability to cry

Who Gets Dry Eye?

Dry eye can occur at any age; although it is most common in people over the age of 65. Hormonal changes in women during pregnancy and menopause can increase the risk of dry eye, as can the use of hormonal birth control methods, such as birth control pills.

No matter what your age, you may experience dry eye if you are exposed to wind, dry conditions or smoke, or have allergies. Some types of medications can affect tear production, including antidepressants, tranquilizers, hormone replacement medications, antihistamines, blood pressure medication and decongestants. If you have thyroid disease, diabetes, chronic conjunctivitis, lupus, Sjogren's syndrome or rheumatoid arthritis, you may be more likely to develop the condition.

Dry eye can also be a problem if you have worn contact lenses for many years or have had LASIK surgery to improve your vision. In some cases, LASIK can decrease tear production. Failure to blink regularly, which can occur when you stare at a computer monitor for a long time, can also trigger the problem.

Treatment Options

Optometrists can offer several strategies and treatment options that will help your eyes feel more comfortable, including:

  • The use of artificial tears for added moisture
  • Changing a medication if dry eye is a side effect
  • Treating underlying diseases and conditions that cause dry eye
  • Plugging the drainage holes in your eyes to prevent tears from draining too quickly
  • Changing the type of contact lenses you wear
  • Recommending that you use an air purifier to remove allergens from the air
  • Prescribing cyclosporine, an anti-inflammatory medicine that increases tear production

If you have a severe case of dry eye, your eye doctor may suggest punctal cautery, a minor surgical procedure that permanently plugs the drainage holes in your eyes.

Keep your eyes healthy with regular eye examinations. Is it about time for your next exam? If so, call us today to set up an appointment!

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