Dry eye syndrome is a common disease in which the eye under-produces tears or tears leave the eye too quickly.  A normal functioning eye constantly produces tears to form a tear film, which acts as moisturizer and lubricant.  For someone with dry eye, the resulting lack of moisture and lubrication can cause a variety of problems.

Dry eye symptoms may include:

  • A burning, stinging, or scratchy sensation in the eyes.
  • Eyes may redden and become easily irritated by wind or smoke.
  • The eyes may produce stringy mucus.
  • Contact lenses may be difficult or impossible to wear.
  • Sometimes the eye will actually produce excessive tears, and overflow.*

*Though it sounds contradictory, sometimes the eye will actually produce excessive tears, and overflow.  The eye becomes irritated by the lack of lubrication and attempts to cleanse itself with a flood of tears.  This is a similar phenomenon to the tearing that occurs when foreign matter is stuck in one’s eye.

Dry eye syndrome is typically more common in older people and women; however, there are many other factors that can cause this to happen.  A common cause of dry eye can be over the counter and prescription medications such as antihistamines, beta-blockers, sleeping pills, pain relievers and many others.  Overuse of diuretics can also play a role in developing dry eye.  For this reason, it is very important to inform your ophthalmologist about any medications you are currently taking, which can help the doctor in the proper diagnosis of the disease.

Sometimes the cause is unknown in a case of dry eye.  Known causes of dry eye may be natural, related to a larger condition, or the side effect of certain medications.  Also, tear production often slows down as people get older.  This is particularly common for women after menopause.

Treatments for dry eye:

  • Artificial tears:  Mild to moderate cases of dry eye syndrome may be treated by applying artificial tear eye drops as little or as often as necessary.  There are a wide range of products available without a prescription that the doctor can recommend.
  • Punctal Plugs:  The use of punctal plugs has been very effective in helping dry eyes. (By blocking the puncta,  the tears are blocked from getting out of the eye.  Therefore, tears that are produced or put in the eye, will stay in the eye longer and therefore lubricate the eye more effectively.)  Typically, temporary dissolvable plugs are placed which last seven to ten days.  If this step goes well, permanent plugs are considered, (remain in place unless removed)
  • Restasis: The last option is Restasis® which is a prescription medication that works to increase tear production.  It is a relatively safe medication, but it does have side effects.  The most common side effect is a burning sensation when Restasis®is administered.  This occurs in approximately 17% of the people.  Other less common side effects are eye pain, itching, stinging, blurred vision, watery eyes, discharge, or redness.  Restasis®typically takes two to three months to start to work.  Almost 60% of people will have an improvement in tear production and approximately 15% of the people will have an improvement in tear production to normal level.
  • Controlling one’s environment:  Patients should avoid situations in which tears evaporate quickly; for example, by using a humidifier in a dry house, wearing wrap-around glasses in the wind, and not smoking.
    If you are experiencing any symptoms of dry eye, we encourage you to contact us today to schedule a consultation.

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