Dry eye is a chronic lack of sufficient lubrication and moisture in the eye.
Simply stated, dry eye syndrome occurs if the eye does not produce enough tears to keep them moist and wash out dust and debris. Tears also contain enzymes, in some cases the tears may just evaporate too quickly to be effective.
Anyone can be affected by dry eye; however it is known that women (possibly due to hormone fluctuations) smokers and people who live in hot dry and humid environments are more prone to dry eyes.
Persistent dryness, scratching and burning in your eyes are signs of dry eye syndrome. Some people may experience the sensation of a “foreign body” in the eye, and even though it may seem odd excessive dryness can work to over stimulate the production of the watery production of your eye’s tears, resulting in constant tearing and watery eyes. Dry eye syndrome may also be caused by certain systemic diseases such as, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.
If you have symptoms of dry eye syndrome, call your eye care specialist for an appointment right away. Symptoms alone may be enough for your doctor to make a diagnosis, but he or she may want to measure the amount of tears in your eyes. A thin paper strip of filter paper is placed at the edge of the eye, called a Schirmer test is one way of measuring this.
Dry eye syndrome is an ongoing condition that may not be cured, but the accompanying symptoms can be managed. Your eye doctor may prescribe artificial tears or eye drops, temporary or permanent silicone plugs may also be needed to keep your tears from draining away too quickly.