Dry eyes can occur for many reasons, including underlying medical conditions and abnormalities with the tear ducts, poor film tear quality, problems with the eyelids and blinking, long-term use of some medications including allergy medications and acne medications, and lifestyle factors like staring for long period of time at a computer or doing other close-up work. Chronic exposure to dry air and irritants can also increase the likelihood of developing chronic dry eye syndrome.
People with chronic dry eyes typically experience symptoms like:
scratchiness or grittiness in the eyes which may be worse when blinking
itching, stinging or burning sensations
the feeling an object is poking your eye (foreign body sensation)
periods of excessive eye watering
heightened sensitivity to light
pain or irritation while wearing contacts
thick or stringy discharge from the eyes
increased sensitivity to smoke and other pollutants
Dry eye symptoms almost always affect both eyes.
Some types of dry eyes can be treated successfully with routine use of medicated and lubricating eye drops to help reduce inflammation and soothe the surface of the eye or by taking oral medications. When dry eyes occur as the result of an underlying disease or long-term use of medications, treating the underlying cause or changing medications will be a primary focus. When structural defects in the tear ducts or lids play a role, minor surgery or laser treatments may be needed to address those issues. Some types of dry eye can be remedied with lifestyle changes, like taking frequent breaks when using a computer, using a humidifier or wearing protective eyewear to reduce exposure to irritants. Routine use of over-the-counter drops is not recommended and can actually mask symptoms that need medical attention.
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