Dry eye results when you do not produce enough tears to keep the surface of your eyes moist, or the tears that you make do not coat the surface properly.  Dry eyes feel scratchy, heavy, or painful, and the vision is often blurry.  Without treatment, chronic dry eye can lead to infection and permanently impaired vision.


What causes dry eye?

The risk of dry eye increases with age.  Women are more susceptible than men.
One cause of dry eye is decreased tear production.  This is seen certain medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, or some types of hypothyroidism. Other causes of decreased tear production include long-term contact lens use, refractive surgical procedures such as lasik, and certain medications.
Dry eye can also occur when tears evaporate too quickly or do not spread evenly over the surface of the eye.  This is often caused by inflammation affecting either the oil-producing glands in the eyelid or the mucous-producing glands on the surface of the eye.  Symptoms of evaporative dry eye are often exacerbated by hot, dry, or windy conditions.

Treatment of Dry Eye

There is currently no cure for dry eye, but there are treatments.
The first line of treatment is often use of over-the-counter artificial tears.  There are several types available.  Some are water-based, while others are designed to restore the balance of oil to water in the tear film.  Some artificial tears contain a preservative to kill bacteria that can contaminate the bottle; others are preservative-free.  
Other treatments for dry eyes include prescription medications, increased consumption of foods or supplements rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and procedures to help retain the natural tears you produce.

Dry Eye and Cornea Care

The cornea is the clear front surface of the eye.  It is responsible for most of the eye’s focusing.  There are many conditions such as dry eye, infections, and corneal dystrophies that can result in decreased vision.

Following his ophthalmology residency training, Dr. Baum completed a two-year Fellowship in Cornea and External Diseases at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School.

 

AAO Eye Smart - Information on Dry Eye