Dry eyes, or dry eye syndrome, is a condition in which the eyes produce inadequate tears. The eyes either simply don’t produce enough tears, or they produce tears that don’t have enough of one of the components. Tears consist of three components: a water fluid, mucus and an oil or lipid.
In keratoconjunctivitis sicca, the eyes simply don’t produce enough tears. In aqueous deficiency, the lacrimal glands don’t produce enough of the watery or aqueous fluid. In evaporative dry eye, the meibomian glands don’t secrete enough of the oily component. Consequently, the patient’s tears evaporate more quickly than normal.
What are the Symptoms?
All of the various types have the same symptoms, and they include the following:
• Itchy eyes
• Reddened eyes
• Sore eyes
• Burning sensation
• Tired eyes
• Feeling of dryness
• Gritty feeling in the eyes
• Blurred vision
Paradoxically, some people with this condition develop unusually watery eyes. The dry eyes will sometimes cause an overproduction of the watery component. Such “reflex tearing” doesn’t help the condition though, for the aqueous fluid doesn’t stay on the eye long enough to properly moisten it.
What Causes Dry Eyes?
The aging process is a very common cause. Most patients with the condition are at least 50 years old. The syndrome is roughly twice as common in women as it is in men, for the hormonal changes caused by menopause often affect tear production.
Some medical conditions can cause the condition. Certain medications can also cause dry eye syndrome. Environmental conditions can also make the eyes abnormally dry. Ceiling fans, air conditioners and central heating systems all reduce the humidity in a building and, thus, increase the chances of developing the condition. The air in airplanes is extremely dry, so people who ride on a plane a lot also risk developing dry eyes.
How are Dry Eyes Treated?
The most common treatment is artificial tears. In some cases, our doctor will treat the underlying cause of the dry eyes. Treatment is not one-size-fits-all. During a consultation at Live Oak Ophthalmology in Wilmington, you can learn all about your treatment options. Contact our office today to schedule an appointment and get started.