Millions of people in the United States are affected by dry eye, an irritating condition that develops when the quantity or quality of your tears can’t keep the surface of your eyes properly lubricated. At Optik Birmingham in Birmingham, Michigan, dry eye expert Joe Ales, OD specializes in diagnosing and treating this all-too-common eye problem, so men and women in the Metro Detroit area can find long-term relief. To learn more, call or schedule an appointment online today.

Dry Eye Q&A

What is dry eye?

Dry eye is a common condition that occurs when the surface of your eyes isn’t sufficiently lubricated and nourished, either because your eyes don’t produce enough tears, or because the quality of your tears isn’t good enough to keep your eyes moist.

Inadequate quantity of tears

Your tears are produced by several glands in and around your eyelids. Tear production often declines with age, but certain medical conditions and medications can also make it decrease.

Living in a windy or dry climate can also decrease tear quantity by making your tears evaporate more quickly than normal.

Inadequate quality of tears

Normal, high-quality tears are made up of three layers: oil, water, and mucus. Each of these layers plays an important role in protecting and nourishing the surface of your eyes.

The mucin layer helps tears spread evenly over the surface of your eyes, while the oil layer keeps the water layer from evaporating. If there are imbalances within any of these layers, your tears may not spread evenly, or they may evaporate too quickly.

The most frequent form of dry eye occurs when the water layer of tears is insufficient. This condition is commonly known as dry eye syndrome.

What are the symptoms of dry eye?

Dry eye causes a notoriously gritty, irritating sensation that makes many people feel as though there’s always something in their eyes. Other common symptoms include:

  • Constant stinging or burning
  • Chronic redness
  • Eye pain and discharge
  • Episodes of excessive dryness
  • Episodes of excessive tearing
  • Blurred vision
  • Heavy eyelids

When dry eye is left untreated and allowed to grow more advanced, it can damage the front surface of your eye and cause vision problems.

What are the risk factors for dry eye?

Dry eye is often a chronic problem that affects older adults — because tear production typically declines with age, being past the age of 50 is a key risk factor.

Women are also more likely than men to develop the condition, partially because hormonal changes during pregnancy and menopause can trigger dry eye, and partially because autoimmune disorders, which are also linked to dry eye, are more common among women.

How is dry eye treated?

Depending on its exact cause, dry eye can often be successfully managed with prescription eyedrops that either supplement your natural tear production or help to stimulate it. If your eyes are especially irritated, Dr. Ales may recommend eyelid massages, warm compresses, or certain eyelid cleaners to help reduce inflammation around the surface of your eyes.

Self-care measures can be just as beneficial for helping your eyes stay comfortably moist. You can improve or alleviate dry eye by making a conscious effort to blink more often and drink more water.

If you work on a computer, give your eyes a break by following the 20-20-20 rule: For every 20 minutes you spend looking at a screen, you should take a break and look at an object that’s at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.

With the right treatment approach and effective self-care measures, you should be able to manage your condition and prevent it from interfering with your vision. To learn more about dry eye, call Optik Birmingham or schedule an appointment online today.