A dry eye is a common condition that occurs when your tears aren't able to provide adequate lubrication for your eyes. When there is an imbalance in the tear system, a person may experience dry eyes. When tears do not adequately lubricate the eye, a person may experience pain, light sensitivity, a gritty sensation, a feeling of a foreign body or sand in the eye, itching, redness and blurring of vision.
Epidemiologic studies identified prevalence rates ranging from 7% in the Switzerland to 33% in Taiwan and Japan. Risk factors include advanced age, female sex, smoking, extreme heat or cold weather conditions, low relative humidity, use of video display terminals, refractive surgery, contact lens wear, and certain medications.
In addition to an imbalance in the tear-flow system of the eye, dry eyes can be caused by situations that dry out the tear film. This can be due to dry air from air conditioning, heat, or other environmental conditions. Other conditions that may cause dry eyes are the natural aging process especially menopause, side effects of certain drugs such as antihistamines and birth control pills, diseases that affect the ability to make tears, such as Sjogren's syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and collagen vascular diseases.
Treatments for dry eyes may include artificial tear drops and ointments; the use of artificial teardrops is the primary treatment for dry eye. Artificial teardrops are available over the counter. If you have chronic dry eye, it is important to use the drops even when your eyes feel fine, to keep them lubricated. Temporary punctal occlusion is another kind of treatment sometimes necessary to close the ducts that drain tears out of the eye. Many patients with particularly bothersome dry eyes find that the plugs or surgical occlusion (cautery) improve comfort and reduce the need for artificial tears. Lipiflow is a medical device that uses heat and pressure on the eyelids to unclog blocked glands. These glands produce oil which lubricates the eye and prevents the tears from evaporating. Restasis is currently the only prescription eye drop that helps your eyes increase their own tear production with continued use. Other medications, including steroid eye drops, can be used for short periods of time as an adjunct to other long-term measures. There is growing evidence that increasing the oral intake of fish oil and omega-3 via diet or supplement is very helpful to those suffering with dry eye.