What is dry eye?

Dry eye syndrome — also called dry eye disease (DED) — is one of the most common eye conditions worldwide and a primary reason for visits to the optometrist. When the natural moisture in your eyes is reduced by factors such as weather, hormones, and certain medications, it can cause irritation often resulting in a burning or itching sensation. Sometimes it feels as though there’s a foreign object in your eye and for some, dry eyes can even cause excessive tearing, as your eyes try to overcompensate for their lack of protective tears. Prolonged, untreated dry eyes can lead to blurred vision as well.

What causes dry eye?

There are many contributing factors to dry eye such as allergies, aging and seasonal changes (you can read some of them here) but the actual cause is a lack of tear production. When our eyes are functioning optimally they continually produce tears to bathe the eye’s surface. This washes away dust, debris and microorganisms that may damage the cornea and lead to an eye infection.

As outlined on All About Vision, a normal tear film consists of three important components:

  1. An oily (lipid) component
  2. A watery (aqueous) component
  3. A mucous-like (mucin) component

Each component of the tear film serves a critical purpose and if one or more of these components isn’t working properly it can cause dry eye. .For example, tear lipids help keep the tear film from evaporating too quickly and increase lubrication, while mucin anchors and spreads the tears across the surface of the eye.

How do I know if I have dry eye?

The only way to be sure if you’re experiencing irritation is to make an appointment. Some common symptoms of dry eye include:

  • Burning sensation
  • Itchy eyes
  • Aching sensations
  • Heavy eyes
  • Fatigued eyes
  • Sore eyes
  • Dryness sensation
  • Red eyes
  • Photophobia
  • Blurred vision
  • Feeling of grit or foreign material in your eye
Did you know?

Watery eyes also can be a symptom of dry eye syndrome! If there is dryness on the surface of the eye, it may over-stimulate production of the watery component of tears as a protective mechanism. Unfortunately this type of “reflex tearing” doesn’t correct the underlying dry eye condition.

How we can help

Dry eyes can cause inflammation and (sometimes permanent) damage to the surface of the eye which is why it’s important to have an eye exam or give us a call if you suspect you have it. It can also be annoying to feel as though you have something in your eye, and we can offer over the counter or prescription drops that can provide relief. Visit us so we can determine the causes of your dry eye and solutions.

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