Dry eye is caused by a lack of tears, which lubricate the eyes and clear away particles and foreign bodies.
There are two ways a person can experience dry eye:
- Some people don’t produce enough tears.
- Some people have tears that evaporate too quickly due to an improper balance in tear composition.
Women are particularly susceptible after menopause, as are people who work long hours at a computer (because they blink less often). Medications such as antihistamines, antidepressants and antihypertensive medications frequently make dry eye worse.
Warning Signs & Symptoms
Almost half of American adults regularly experience dry eye. Symptoms can include:
- Excessive irritation from the elements
- Discomfort from contacts
- Watering eyes
If tears do not keep the eye moist, it becomes irritated. This can cause the gland to release a large volume of tears, overwhelming the tear drainage system.
Most dry eye is easily treatable using artificial tears or non-prescription eye drops. If your dry eye is more severe, your doctor may prescribe medication to increase tear production or recommend a punctal plug, a small device that temporarily closes the small duct where tears drain from the eye.
A wide variety of common medications reduce tear production and cause dry eye, such as antihistamines, antidepressants and antihypertensive medications. Tell your doctor the names of all medications you are taking.
Some people can prevent tears from evaporating by using a humidifier and avoiding overly dry, warm rooms, hair dryers, smoke and wind.