At the most basic level dry eyes are caused by a lack of a good combination of the ingredients in tears. Tears are made up of water, oils and mucus. This combination not only maintains moisture in your eyes but also helps to prevent infection. Dry eyes are often caused by temporary discomfort. For example, they can often be attributed to a change in environment. Anything from an airplane cabin to staring at screens for too long can make eyes dry. Symptoms of dry eyes typically include discomfort, light sensitivity, a feeling of dirt or a small object in the eye, itching, redness and possible decline in vision. A final sign of dry eyes may be excessive tearing. While this may seem counter-intuitive, when the brain receives a signal from the eyes that the eyes are dry, more tears are produced. These tears, however, are often much higher in water content than normal and thus may remove an irritant but will not properly lubricate the eyes.
There are numerous causes of dry eyes as mentioned above and there is a distinction between chronic dry eyes and those caused by a temporary change. Chronic dry eyes can be attributed to aging (especially among women), antihistamines, birth control, various diseases and any malformation of the eye would lead to be unable to close properly. Additionally, some individuals may suffer from problems with the glands that produce tears. Some people may have too much or too little water, mucous or oil in the combination of the tears.
Depending the severity of dry eyes determines the treatment needed to relieve the symptoms. The most common and un-invasive treatment is artificial tear drops and ointments. These are designed to replicate natural tears and are available over the counter. As everyone's eye composition is slightly different numerous brands may need to be tested to see which brand provides the best relief. It is important that those who suffer from chronic dry eyes use drops on a regular schedule since even when symptoms seem to decline, without treatment they may return. Ointments are similar to drops but may provide long relief especially during sleep. Another treatment option is the closing of the channels that remove tears from the eye. This procedure known as punctual occlusion generally is tested with temporary plugs before becoming a permanent treatment. The blockage of these ducts usually lessens the need for drops. There is also the possibility of closing the ducts that drain tears from the eyes to ears in a permanent surgical treatment. Finally, there is one prescription medication shown to increase the amount of tears produced called Restasis. This medication is available through prescription only for chronic dry eyes.
Neither temporary nor chronic dry eyes should be causes of major concern and are easily treatable in a few steps. Finally, if the condition is accompanied by a sudden decline in vision or seems unbearable a physician should be contacted immediately.