If you’re like millions of Americans, you may be regularly bothered by dry, burning, or itchy eyes; your eyes may be red, your vision might be foggy, or they could even be watery. If you frequently experience all, most, or even some of these symptoms, you likely are suffering from dry eye disease.
The Cause of Dry Eye Disease
Symptoms of ocular dryness have roots in two main causes: lack of tear production or lack of tear stability. If the cause of your dry eye symptoms is lack of tear production, the main gland responsible for producing and releasing aqueous (the watery part of our tears) is not properly functioning. This gland, called the lacrimal gland, can be affected by old age, certain medications, or a variety of diseases, resulting in reduced tear production and symptoms of dryness.
The more common cause of dry eye disease is a poor tear stability. The film of tears that lines our eyes, keeps our cornea nourished, and allows our eyes to feel comfortably moist is held together and made stable by an oily layer. Many tiny glands line our eyelids and release this oily layer, but oftentimes these glands become blocked, damaged, or otherwise irregular. If the oil layer isn’t released to the surface of our eye, ours tears are quick to evaporate, leaving the corneal surface exposed. This in turn causes uncomfortable symptoms of dryness.
Not All Artificial Tears Are Created Equally
It’s important to pick the RIGHT artificial tear for your type of dry eye. If tear production is the culprit, a simple lubricating drop may do the trick. If the symptoms are caused by tear instability, an oil-based artificial tear will be more effective in promoting a more durable tear film. Some cases of more severe dry eye disease may require a dose of antibiotics or steroids to work against the underlying infection or inflammation causing dry eye disease.