Dry Eyes / Tearing

What is Dry Eye?

Normally, the eye bathes itself in tears at a slow and steady rate to stay moist and comfortable. Sometimes people do not produce enough tears or the appropriate quality of tears to keep their eyes healthy and comfortable. This condition is known as dry eye.

Are there any symptoms?

Yes, symptoms include:

  • Stinging of burning eyes
  • Scratchiness
  • Stringy mucus in or around eyes
  • Excessive eye irritation from smoke or wind
  • Excess tearing
  • Discomfort when wearing contact lenses

How often should I be examined for Dry Eye?

Tear production normally decreases as we age, although it can be associated with other problems such as various diseases. An ophthalmologist is usually able to diagnose dry eye by examining the eyes. Sometimes tests that measure tear production are necessary. The Schirmer tear test involves placing filter-paper strips under the lower eyelids to measure the rate of tear production under various conditions. Another test uses a diagnostic drop, called fluorescein, to look for certain patterns of dryness on the surface of the eye.

Is there a cure and treatment?

Eye drops called artificial tears are similar to your own tears. They lubricate the eyes and help maintain moisture. Preservative free eye drops are available for people who are sensitive to preservatives in artificial tears. You can use artificial tears as often as necessary - once or twice a day or as often as several times an hour. Conserving your tears is another approach to keeping the eyes moist. Tears drain out of the eye into the nose. Your ophthalmologist may close these channels either temporarily, with punctual plugs or permanently. The closure conserves your own tears and makes artificial tears last longer. Additional treatment options can be discussed with your ophthamologist.