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Dry Eyes

Dry eye syndrome

Sometimes a problem develops with the quality or quantity of the tears. The eye may not produce enough tears, or the quality is poor and the tears either do not spread well or they evaporate too quickly. This results in dry eye syndrome. Dry eyes are a common complaint, with about four people in 100 seeking treatment for persistent symptoms.

Dry eye syndrome is also called "keratoconjunctivitis sicca'"; you may hear your doctor use this term.

Curiously, one of the most common signs of dry eye syndrome is too many tears and watery eyes. The dryness and irritation stimulates the production of an excess amount of the watery layer of the tear film. These excess tears have a very poor lubricating quality because they lack the oil and mucus layers.

Signs and symptoms

The signs and symptoms of dry eye vary.

The most common are:

  • persistent dryness
  • burning
  • general eye discomfort
  • soreness and a scratchy and gritty feeling
  • blurred vision
  • sensitivity to bright light.

Treatment For Dry Eye Syndrome

Dry eye syndrome is usually a long-lasting condition. In many people with the condition, it comes and goes with varying severity. Dry eye syndrome cannot be cured, but the symptoms can usually be well managed. The most widely used treatment is moisture replacement using artificial tears. These are lubricating eye drops that are sold over-the-counter at pharmacies. Many different products and brands are available.

People with dry eye syndrome may find that eye medications, including artificial tears, irritate their eyes. Many products are preservative-free, which is often preferable if drops are used frequently. Some drops are thicker than others and may give more long-lasting relief. You may need to try several different types and brands to find the best one for you. Be careful to observe use-by dates.

Some images and information provided courtesy of RANZCO and Mi-tec Medical Publishing. The complete RANZCO patient education pamphlet is available from your ophthalmologist.