While it's fairly common to experience dry eyes occasionally, if you suffer with the condition frequently, you should probably talk to your eye doctor about your symptoms. Having dry eyes is annoying because it makes your eyes feel uncomfortable, but even worse, it's possible for dry eyes to cause other complications with your vision and eye health. Here's what you should know about this eye condition.
Many Things Cause Dry Eyes
One of the first things your eye doctor will do is determine the cause of your symptoms. It could be due to a side effect of medications, eye allergies, smoking, eye strain, living or working in a dry environment, or a medical problem such as diabetes.
Your tears are made from watery fluid, an oily substance, and mucin, which is the protein found in mucus. Each of these parts is made by a different type of gland or cell in the eye. If any of these develop problems, dry eyes can be the result. For instance, if the glands that secrete the oily portion of your tears become blocked, then your tears will evaporate much quicker and leave your eyes dry. The oil-producing glands and the mucin-producing cells may be working well, but if there is not enough watery fluid to coat your eyes, then you'll have dry, uncomfortable eyes.
Why You Should See An Eye Doctor
Everyone experiences dry eyes differently. Your symptoms may be mild or they may be very bothersome. However, you can't rely on the severity of your symptoms to judge the severity of your eye condition. You may think your symptoms are minor, but your dry eyes could be causing damage. Also, it is difficult to understand what is going on with your eyes sometimes. In fact, you may experience excess tearing of your eyes because they are so irritated from being dry. Since you have plenty of tears, you may not realize your eyes are actually dry until you have an eye examination.
Your eye doctor will examine your eyes to look for signs of damage, take a history of your symptoms, and do tests to determine the cause of your condition. Once that's known, effective treatment can begin. Simply treating yourself with over-the-counter eye drops may not be the right treatment, and it may even mask your condition.
There Are Many Treatments Available
Lifestyle changes may be necessary if your eye doctor determines your problem is caused by smoking, working for long hours on the computer, keeping your home too dry inside, or not managing a health condition such as diabetes. You may also need to work with your regular medical doctor to change medications you're taking if they are the cause of your dry eyes.
Your eye doctor may prescribe eye drops too. You may need prescription-strength medication, or your doctor may advise you on the brand to buy at the drugstore. If you buy the drops yourself, be sure to buy the kind your doctor recommends. Some drops are watery and supplement the watery portion of your tears. Others are oily and are indicated when the oily portion of your tears is low. The oily drops make your vision blurry for several minutes and should be used at bedtime for safety's sake. Prescription drops go a step further and actually stimulate your eyes to produce more tears.
If your eyes do not respond to lifestyle changes and eye drops, your eye doctor may recommend other procedures such as plugging your tear ducts so fluid seeps out over the surface of your eye rather than leak through the ducts. Your doctor may also perform procedures to unblock glands so your tears can flow freely again.
If your case is mild, using artificial tears a few times a day may be all you need to keep your condition under control. If your case is more complex, you need to be patient. Prescription eye drops may take several months before you see results. Your doctor may even need to try several approaches until something works.