Dry eye syndrome is one of the most common problems treated by eye doctors. It is estimated that over 10 million Americans suffer from dry eyes. It is usually caused by a problem with the quality of the tear film that lubricates the eye.
Tears are produced by two different methods. One method produces tears at a slow, steady rate and is responsible for normal eye lubrication. The other method produces large quantities of tears in response to eye irritation or emotions.
Dry eye syndrome has many causes. One of the most common reasons for dryness is simply due to the normal aging process. Contact lens wearers may also experience dryness because contact lenses absorb the tear film, causing proteins to form on the surface of the lens. Certain medications, thyroid conditions, vitamin A deficiency, menopause, and diseases such as Parkinson’s and Sjogren’s may also cause dryness.
- Stringy mucous in or around the eyes
- Excess tearing
- Blurred vision that improves with blinking
Detection and Diagnosis
There are several tests for dry eyes. The eye doctor will first determine the underlying cause by measuring the production, evaporation rate, and quality of the tear film. Special drops that highlight problems that would otherwise be invisible may be helpful in diagnosing the extent of the dryness.
When it comes to dry eyes, everyone’s needs are different although eye drops called artificial tears are generally used as a first line treatment. Your eye doctor will determine which treatment is best for you based on your individual circumstances.