What's in this article?
Dry eye syndrome, or dry eye disease, is a common condition that occurs when the eyes don’t make enough tears, or the tears evaporate too quickly.
This leads to the eyes drying out and becoming red, swollen and irritated.
Dry eye syndrome is also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca, or simply “dry eyes“.
Dry eye syndrome, also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), is the condition of having dry eyes. Other associated symptoms include irritation, redness, discharge, and easily fatigued eyes. Blurred vision may also occur.
Causes of dry eyes
Even when you’re happy, your eyes are full of tears. They provide moisture and lubrication to help you see and keep your peepers comfortable.
What’s in a tear? They’re a mix of:
- Water, for moisture
- Oils, for lubrication
- Mucus, for even spreading
- Antibodies and special proteins that keep infection at bay
The ingredients come from special glands around your eye. Dry eyes often mean your tear system is out of whack.
When tears don’t provide enough moisture, you might notice:
- A gritty feeling
- Feeling like there’s something in your eye
- Blurry vision
- Light sensitivity
How are dry eyes diagnosed?
Dry eyes can be diagnosed through a comprehensive eye examination. Testing, with emphasis on the evaluation of the quantity and quality of tears produced by the eyes, may include:
- Patient history to determine the patient’s symptoms and to note any general health problems, medications or environmental factors that may be contributing to the dry eye problem.
- External examination of the eye, including lid structure and blink dynamics.
- Evaluation of the eyelids and cornea using bright light and magnification.
- Measurement of the quantity and quality of tears for any abnormalities. Special dyes may be put in the eyes to better observe tear flow and to highlight any changes to the outer surface of the eye caused by insufficient tears.
With the information obtained from testing, your optometrist can determine if you have dry eyes and advise you on treatment options.
Caring for your eyes
As well as medical treatments, there are some things you can do yourself to help prevent dry eye syndrome or reduce the symptoms.
- keeping your eyes and eyelids clean and protecting them from dusty, smoky, windy and dry environments
- using your computer or laptop correctly to avoid eye strain
- using a humidifier to moisten the air
- eating a healthy diet that includes omega-3 and omega-7 fats
Treatments for dry eyes
For most people with occasional or mild dry eye symptoms, it’s enough to regularly use over-the-counter eyedrops (artificial tears). If your symptoms are persistent and more serious, you have other options. What you do depends on what’s causing your dry eyes.
Some treatments focus on reversing or managing a condition or factor that’s causing your dry eyes. Other treatments can improve your tear quality or stop your tears from quickly draining away from your eyes.