Tears are very important for the eyes. They provide moisture and lubrication, which allows normal vision and comfort. Tears are composed of water, oils, mucus, antibodies and special proteins.
Water is there to provide moisture, oils lubricate the eye, mucus allows even spreading and antibodies protect the eye from infections. Tears have a very important role and if they are not present in sufficient quantities, the eyes become dry and irritated.
Symptoms of dry eye
If one or both eyes become dry due to the lack of tears, the symptoms will include pain, irritation, itching, redness, blurred vision, sensitivity to light and a sensation as if there were a tiny grain of sand or a dirt particle in the eye.
Sometimes a person suffering from dry eye will also experience a steady flow of tears running down the cheeks, which is certainly confusing. This happens when the eye does not receive adequate lubrication, and it sends the distress signal for more lubrication. The body tries to compensate by producing more tears, but those are mostly comprised of water and do not provide the lubrication required.
Causes of dry eye
In most cases dry eyes are caused by an imbalance in the system that regulates the tear flow. The cause may also be environmental or it can include conditions that dry out the tear film covering the eye, like air conditioning, wind or heat.
In addition, a dry eye can be caused by aging processes, menopause, side effects of certain medications or it can be a symptom of a disease, for example of Sjogren’s syndrome, collagen vascular diseases or rheumatoid arthritis.
Treatment for dry eye
There are many remedies and medications that can relieve the discomfort caused by dry eyes. One of the best ones are artificial tears, available over the counter. These eye drops mimic the structure of actual tears and provide lubrication, moisture and protection for eyes lacking natural tears. There are also ointments that help with this problem too.
Restasis are prescription-only medicated eyedrops, designed to increase the natural tear production in the eye.
In some cases it is necessary to close the ducts that lead the tears away from the eye. This procedure is called temporary punctual occlusion. In case this temporary plugging does not work, it may be necessary to perform permanent punctual occlusion, where silicone plugs are placed in tear ducts, directing the tears the right way. They can be removed if the condition improves.
Another option is surgery that closes the ducts leading the tears down the nose. The point of this procedure is to allow the tears to stay around the eye. It is usually done as an outpatient procedure.