Everyone should see their optometrist if they experience dry eyes. In order to determine if a patient has dry eye, it requires an extensive examination of their anterior segment (eyelashes, eyelids, lid margin, cornea). Examining the glands on the eyelids, the overall production of tears and the stability of the tear layer are three very important factors that are assessed. Additionally there are “dyes” that can be used to highlight specific areas of the area that have become irritated.
Depending on the type of dry eye, the treatment can vary. The most common and first line treatment of Dry eye is artificial tears. There is a wide variety of artificial tears on the market, make sure you find out which is best for you. Other forms of dry eye are treated with nutritional supplements and heating pads. With more severe dry eye cases, there are prescription eye drops that are utilized to provide a much needed efficacy.
In some cases, watery eyes are caused by dry eyes. The body will begin to produce tears to provide improved lubrication to the eye, but they are “reflex” tears. These “reflex tears” are only one part of the complex combination of components that forms the “tear film”. Supplementation with proper artificial tears will help to reduce tearing.
Dry Eye Syndrome is most common in women and people over the age of 40. Women are more likely to have dry eye syndrome due to hormonal changes that occur during menstruation, menopause, and pregnancy all which can decrease tear production. As well there are many medications that can cause a decrease in tear production leading to dry eye.
NOTE: Dry eyes tend to be worse in the winter months. The heat in cars and homes dry the skin and the eyes.
Here are some handy tips to avoid exacerbating dry eye factors:
- Avoid having fans/heaters directed towards your face
- Drink lots of water to improve overall systemic hydration
- Take breaks during prolonged computer/cell phone usage