Dry eye is a medical condition caused when your eyes either don’t produce enough tears or the tears are too poor of quality to provide adequate lubrication for your eyes. It can be either acute or chronic in terms of onset and duration. Dry eye can occur as an isolated issue or in conjunction with other diseases or maladies. While there is no cure for dry eye syndrome, a variety of treatments can help alleviate its symptoms.
Insufficient tears. Tears are produced by a number of glands in and around the eyelids. According to the American Optometric Association, “Tear production diminishes with age, with various medical conditions, or as a side effect of certain medicines.” Tear evaporation secondary to climactic conditions, such as low humidity and high winds, can also contribute to dry eye syndrome. Anytime the production of tears or the increased evaporation of tears occurs, you may develop dry eye syndrome.
Poor tear quality. Tears are composed of three components: water, lipids and mucus. Anytime any of the three components is insufficient, it can lead to dry eye syndrome. The most common form of dry eyes is due to insufficient water content. This leads to a diagnosis of keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), more commonly known as dry eye syndrome.
Contributing or complicating factors. In addition to the previously mentioned aging and environmental conditions, several factors can contribute to the development of dry eyes. Gender is a factor; women develop dry eyes more frequently than men due to changing hormones. This can be due to menopause, pregnancy or the use of hormone therapy such as oral contraceptives. Certain medications can also cause dry eyes. These include (but are not limited to) antihistamines, decongestants, high blood pressure medications and anti-depressants. Medical ailments such as diabetes, hypertension, rheumatoid arthritis, and any inflammation or condition affecting the eyelids or surfaces of the eye can contribute to or cause dry eye syndrome.
If symptoms or signs of dry eye appear and persist for more than a few days, the afflicted person should consult his or her physician or optical care provider, as dry eye can lead to several other more substantial and serious issues.