Dry Eye

Dry eye syndrome is a very common condition. Although aging certainly plays a key role in reducing natural tear production (especially during menopause), dry eye can affect anyone. Tear film is made up of a mucous layer against the eye, a middle aqueous (water) layer, and an outer lipid (oily) layer. All three components are important to a normal tear film. If any of the three layers of the tear film are deficient or dysfunctional, the eye may suffer symptoms of dry eye.
                                                     
Complaints of dry eye may include: Burning, Stinging, Redness of the eyes and Tearing.  The reason why tearing can also be a symptom of ocular dryness is because tear film can be unstable like a drop of water in a greasy frying pan and run off the surface instead of sticking to the eye and keeping it wet.  In other words ocular dryness is a complex problem and is often multifactorial. 
                                   
Various conditions causing dry eyes include aging, hormonal changes (menopause), smoking, medications (blood pressure, antihistamines, antidepressants, birth control pills), contact lens wear, previous refractive laser eye surgery, lack of blinking due to conditions like Parkinson's disease or prolonged staring at a computer screen.
                   
Treatment depends on the cause and mechanism of the dry eye syndrome which should be first properly diagnosed by an ophthalmologist.  Why see a medical specialist for this?  That is because many ocular conditions even as seemingly benign as dry eye can be as a result of an undiagnosed or poorly treated underlying medical condition such as collagen-vascular disease or other coexistent ocular conditions such as allergies, rosacea or blepharitis to name a few.  Furthermore dry eyes can lead to complications leading to visual loss.
                            
Treatment modalities include removal of the cause eg. medication and quitting smoking. Sometimes dietary changes such as increasing omega 3 fatty acid intake (fish and flax seeds), artificial tear replacement drops and punctal occlusion are also helpful. One can also consider obtaining a humidifier, wear sunglasses in windy conditions and try to blink more often.  More severe cases can be treated with punctum plugs or Cyclosporin A drops.