Everyone occasionally gets dry eyes — your eyes feel gritty and dusty and stuck open, like they need lubrication they aren’t getting. This is usually because of your environment (dust, dry air, wind, etc.), and once you’re in a normal setting again, your eyes are fine.
If you find yourself with these symptoms more often, though, and there’s no discernible reason for them, you may be suffering from dry eye, a medical diagnosis that affects more than three million women and one million men in the United States.
At the Suburban Eyes Clinic in Evanston, Illinois, our expert team has treated dry eye many times. Here’s more information about the condition — and why you shouldn’t ignore it.
What is dry eye?
Healthy tears — the kind that most of us normally produce — consist of a mixture of water, fatty oils, and mucus. Our eyes rely on this mixture to stay clean, clear, and infection-free. If you have dry eye, though, your tears are not adequately lubricating your eyes.
Your tear ducts may not be producing enough tears, or your tears may not be chemically balanced correctly, but either way, you end up with a constant gritty feeling behind your eyelids. Dry eye can be caused by a variety of factors, including medications, older age, diabetes, vitamin A deficiency, and more.
In some cases, dry eye can be treated with over-the-counter eye drops. If those don’t work, or if the condition persists, you may need a stronger treatment, such as prescription eye drops or a procedure to unblock your tear ducts.
What can it lead to?
You’re welcome to try the over-the-counter drops, and if those clear up the problem, that’s great. If not, or if you decide to ignore the issue, more serious problems can develop. If you have to keep rubbing your eyes to relieve the dryness and itchiness, you can develop redness, soreness, and a burning sensation. You may also feel pain when you close your eyes.
The constant soreness and itching can also cause your vision to blur, and your cornea is at risk for inflammation and conjunctiva. You could also develop a chronic, severe problem such as dysfunctional tear syndrome, which causes you to produce less tears.
In short, the dry eye condition leaves your eyes vulnerable to harm and infection, and could ultimately compromise your eyesight.
Our best recommendation is to get checked out by a professional if you have persistent dry eye symptoms. Just call the Suburban Eyes Clinic, or book your own appointment using our convenient online scheduler, and we’ll have your vision back to normal in no time!