There are times when our eyes just can't seem to get it together, failing to produce enough tears or producing tears of subpar quality. This unfortunate situation leads to the persistent discomfort known as "dry eyes."
Ordinarily, our eyes maintain their moisture and comfort by continuously bathing themselves in tears, which are composed of three essential layers: the oily, the watery, and the mucus layer. Each layer plays a unique role in keeping our eyes well-lubricated. The outermost layer is the oily one, responsible for preventing rapid tear evaporation. Next in line is the watery layer, which makes up most of what we typically think of as tears. This layer not only cleans the eye but also washes away tiny foreign particles. The innermost layer is composed of mucus, which allows the watery layer to adhere to the eye's surface and spread evenly, ensuring proper lubrication. In cases of dry eyes, factors like hormonal changes, medication side effects, or other influences disrupt the tear-production process, leading to inadequate lubrication.
According to Dr. Charlie Alfano from Purview Eye Care, symptoms of dry eyes can range from stinging, burning, and scratchiness to excessive irritation caused by smoke or wind. Paradoxically, the eye's response to persistent irritation may lead to excessive tearing. In this scenario, the eye attempts to self-lubricate by producing more tears, but it struggles due to rapid tear evaporation or improper tear distribution.
While dry eyes may not always be curable, optometrists often prescribe artificial tears to alleviate some of the discomfort. These are specialized lubricating eye drops that can help with the dry, scratchy feeling. Different types of artificial tears serve various purposes. Some replace missing components of natural tears, while others stimulate tear production. Your eye doctor will guide you in choosing the right option for your needs.
In some cases, dry eyes are seasonal, often caused by cold, dry winter air. To counteract this, your eye doctor might recommend wearing sunglasses or goggles outdoors to shield your eyes from sun, wind, and dust exposure. Indoors, they may suggest using an air cleaner and a humidifier to reduce airborne dust and increase indoor moisture.
For more information and to receive guidance from a modern eye care professional, make an appointment with your eye doctor today.