Dry eye is a rather self-explanatory term: it indicates a condition in which, due to the lack of tears, one or both eyes become dry, and thus irritated, itchy and sometimes painful. This problem can arise for a number of reasons, associated either with tear ducts or with the quality of the tears.
The main purpose of tears is actually not to express sorrow, or sometimes joy, but to lubricate the eyes by providing a thin film that clears the vision.
Tears are produced in the lachrymal glands in the eyes and transported through tear ducts. If there are not enough tears produced, or if they evaporate quickly, it leads to the feeling of dryness and itching.
Causes of dry eyes
Sometimes the cause of dry eyes is something very simple, like old age. With age, the lachrymal glands start producing less and less tears and it naturally leads to dry eyes.
Dry weather, indoor heating or cooling systems and dusty air are also responsible for the dryness of the eyes. Fortunately, in those cases the problem goes away once the person changes environment or climate.
Sometimes prolonged use of contact lenses can make the eyes scratchy and dry. Again, the eyes will go back to normal once the lenses are removed.
Dry eye can also be a sign of something more serious, like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and several other conditions.
How to treat dry eye
There are medications that can be used to solve the problem with dry eye. Anti-inflammatory medications, such as Restasis, can be very effective and they usually produce prolonged effects.
There are also hypotonic drugs in form of eye drops, such as Thera tears and Akwa tears. Some of them provide temporary relief from dryness while others prevent dryness by lubricating the eyes.
Bicarbonate drops are useful for dry eyes but also for other eye conditions and problems. Murine eyes, which are also bicarbonate-based, actually contain six of the 11 basic constituents of natural tears.
Gelling agent drops are recommended for all conditions that involve eye irritation, which means they can be used for dry eye syndrome as well.
Most people believe that tears are just water. However, they actually contain oily components. If the oily content of tears is lower than normal, the eyes will feel dry and itchy. Oil-based drops or artificial tears are the best solution for that problem and they are usually used when other types of drops fail to provide relief.
Finally, there are serum eye drops that contain growth factors, naturally present in tears.