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Dry Eyes 101

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Whether you wear contact lenses or not, you may suffer from dry eyes. While dry eyes are a common complaint from patients who wear contacts, others experience this problem occasionally as well. Here is what you can do about it.

Visit Your Ophthalmologist

Chronic dry eyes can be caused by any number of factors, so it is important to the visit the eye doctor so they can determine the underlying reasons your eyes aren't providing enough lubrication. It may be you are wearing the wrong kind of contact lenses for you. It could be a clogged tear duct.

Or maybe one of the glands in the eye are not producing adequate moisture. A tear is actually made up of three components. The meibomian glands are in the eyelids and produce the oily component of a tear. The lacrimal glands in the outer upper lid produces the watery part, and the mucous part is produced by the thin covering over the sclera, or the white part of the eye. If any one of these components aren't present, you'll end up with dry eyes. There can also be underlying medical problems that may need to be ruled out or more serious but rare eye conditions.

What Are The Symptoms Of Dry Eyes?

In addition to a feeling of constant dryness, you may also experience:

  • Burning eyes
  • Red eyes
  • Sore eyes
  • Eyes that are hard to keep open because the eyes naturally want to close to prevent further dehydration
  • Eyes that feel gritty or like there is something in them
  • Blurred vision
  • Sensitivity to bright light
  • Eye fatigue

What Are The Environmental Factors That Cause Dry Eyes?

Even eyes that are functioning as they should can become dry under the "right" conditions. People who work at a computer all day can experience eye strain and resulting dryness. Contact lens wearers have this complaint often. Aging, particularly in post-menopausal women, is a common cause of dry eyes. Air conditioning, a lack of humidity, the furnace running in winter, and wood heat can all cause the air in your home to be dry, causing your eyes to become dry. Smoking, frequent flying, and some medications can cause the condition as well.

What Can Be Done For Chronically Dry Eyes?

If you wear contacts, your doctor may recommend switching to one of the newer moisture lubricating lenses. Artificial tears, behavior modification, and adjusting your environment are other potential solutions.