Dry Eyes

What are Dry Eyes?

Chronic dry eye is a common condition that affects millions of Americans every year. It happens when a person’s tear glands and ducts are unable to produce sufficient moisture to maintain comfort within the eye. It may be due to inadequate tear production or tears that are not of the proper quality that evaporate too quickly.

Dry eyes can be chronic or temporary. Numerous factors can contribute to the condition, such as certain medications, diseases in the eye glands, pregnancy, refractive eye surgery, chemical or thermal burns, eye allergies, extended computer use, dry environments, long term use of contact lenses, or immune system disorders. Although dry eyes can affect anyone, it tends to show up more often in older adults and women who are post-menopausal.

What are the Symptoms of Dry Eyes?

Patients with this condition will experience a variety of symptoms in the eyes, including:

  • Redness
  • Dryness
  • Inflammation
  • Discomfort
  • Irritation
  • Stinging
  • Burning
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Sandy or gritty feeling
  • Stringy discharge
  • Heavy eyelids
  • Inability to cry
  • Eye fatigue
  • Pain
  • Ulcers
  • Scars on the cornea
  • Changes in vision
  • Vision impairment

It is important to note that while some people will experience changes in vision with dry eyes, it is very rare for a person to permanently lose all sight. Vision changes are often temporary and clear up once the condition is treated. However, advanced cases can cause damage to the eye surface, which can permanently impair vision.

How are Dry Eyes Treated?

Management for dry eyes is largely dependent on how severe symptoms become.

Treatment includes

For some people, over-the-counter lubricating eye drops or artificial tears are sufficient for relieving the discomfort. Other cases will require prescription-strength steroid drops. Depending on circumstances, patients may need tear duct plugs, prescription glasses, nutritional supplements, intense pulsed light therapy, or immuno-suppressive drugs to treat the condition.

Last Reviewed:
September 20, 2016
Last Updated:
September 06, 2017