The eye depends on the flow of tears to provide constant moisture and lubrication to maintain vision and comfort. Tears are a combination of water, for moisture; oils, for lubrication; mucus, for even spreading; and antibodies and special proteins, for resistance to infection. These components are secreted by special glands located around the eye. When there is an imbalance in this tear system, a person may experience dry eyes.
More than three million American women over the age of 50 have moderate to severe dry eyes, while more than 1.5 million American men over the age of 50 are similarly afflicted. This condition is fairly benign and easily treated with artificial tears, however. ometimes a symptom of dry eye syndrome may actually be intermittent excessive tearing. With dry eye, when the eyes becomes slightly dry and irritated, it may initiate reflex tearing with the production of a large amount of tears all at once to try to get moist and comfortable again. Unfortunately, the eyes can only handle so many tears at any one time; the rest pour over the eyelids and down the cheeks. Those tears that pour down the cheeks do not help the eyes and are wasted. A short time later, the eyes will become slightly dry and irritated again and the whole process may repeat itself
Although no cure exists for dry eye syndrome, many treatments are available. Treatment is dependent on the severity of dry eye syndrome; some people may only require a humidifier or occasional eye drops while others may require surgery to help decrease dry eyes. Over-the-counter lubricating eye drops, commonly referred to as artificial tears, may help relieve dry eyes. Some examples of these products include 20/20 Tears, Celluvisc, Comfort Tears, Dry Eyes, Murine, Refresh, and Tears Naturale. An ophthalmologist may also prescribe medications to help with dry eye syndrome.