Dry eye syndrome is one of the most common problems treated by eye physicians. Over ten million Americans suffer from dry eyes. It is usually caused by a problem with the quality of the tear film that lubricates the eyes.
Dry eye syndrome is related to improper functioning of internal eye structures responsible for creating fluids that moisturize and coat the eye to prevent evaporation. Dry eye can result when tear production is deficient, or when tear drainage systems malfunction or become blocked.
Dry eye syndrome occurs as a part of the natural aging process. Dry eye is more common in women, possibly due to hormone fluctuations that results in decreased tear or fluid production in the eye. Also, recent research suggests that smoking and taking multivitamins can increase your risk of dry eye syndrome.
Certain medications also have been shown to cause decreased tear production, including diuretics, steroids, and antidepressants. Clinical studies also have linked common allergy medications, antihistamines, with dry eye.
Dry eye syndrome is an ongoing condition that cannot be cured but can be managed.
Many find relief simply from using artificial tears on a regular basis. Some of these products are watery and alleviate the symptoms temporarily; others are thicker and adhere to the eye longer. Preservative-free tears are recommended because they are the most soothing and have fewer additives that could potentially irritate.
Sometimes too much moisture drains out of the eye through the lacrimal (tear) ducts. Temporary or permanent plugs in the lacrimal ducts usually solve this problem very well, though sometimes the ducts need surgical blockage.