Many people associate tears with those crying moments. However, tears play a pivotal role in the health of our eyes. In fact, tears stop the surface of the eye from drying out by lubricating the eyes. Every time we blink, a thin film of tears is swept over the eyes’ surface. This watery layer of tears is topped with an even thinner coat of lipids (fatty compounds) that help to preserve the film. For optimal eye health and to maintain eye comfort, the tear film needs to remain intact between blinks.
People who suffer from dry eyes don’t have enough tears to keep the eye comfortable. This can happen if they don’t produce enough tears to keep the surface of the eye moist, or if the tears do not stay on the eyes long enough. Symptoms of dry eye include itchiness, stinging or burning, redness, a feeling like you need to close your eyes (tired eyes), or a feeling of grittiness or the sensation of something foreign in the eye. People with dry eyes also find it difficult to wear contact lenses and may have more problems in environments such as air-conditioned offices. Over time the resulting dryness can damage the surface of the eyeball.
Dry eyes can affect anyone but is more common as we get older because we produce a smaller volume of tears. Dry eyes can also result from menopause, medical conditions such as arthritis, climatic conditions such as dry air and wind, prolonged periods of time in front of a computer screen, and irritants such as cigarette smoke or dust. Some medications such as oral contraceptives, antidepressants and beta-blockers can also trigger dry eye.
There is no cure for dry eye, however the condition can be successfully managed. Treatment aims to increase tear production, maintain tear film volume or prevent excess loss of tears. There are a number of eye drops or gels that can lubricate the surface of the eyes. Optive Eye Drops moisturises the surface of the eye and also hydrates the eye at a cellular level. Systane Lubricant Eye Drops moisturises and uses a LipiTech System to provide prolonged lipid layer restoration. Refresh Tears Plus and Optrex Refreshing Eye Drops are two other eye drops formulations available that can assist in lubricating the eyes.
Increasing the humidity of the air at home or work can also help with the symptoms of dry eyes. Vaporisers such as the Euky Bear Vaporiser, can help to boost the humidity. You may also need to consult your doctor to discuss the possibility of dry eyes being an adverse effect of some medications you may take.