Dry Eye Syndrome

Dr. Johnson I have watery eyes sometimes and sometimes my eyes really hurt and burn. What is going on?

Dry eye syndrome is a chronic lack of moisture in the eye. Its consequences range from subtle but constant irritation to ocular redness of the anterior tissues of the eye.

Persistent dryness, scratching and burning in your eyes are signs of dry eye syndrome. Some people will experience the feeling that something is in their eyes.  Sometimes watery eyes can result from dry eye syndrome, because the excessive dryness works to overstimulate the production of the watery component of your tears.

Dry eye syndrome has several causes.

1. It occurs as part of the natural aging process, especially during menopause, as a side effect of many medications such as antihistamines, antidepressants, birth control pills and certain blood pressure medications.

2. Living in a dry, dusty, windy climate may also cause dry eye. If your home or office has air conditioning or a dry heating system, that too can dry out your eyes. Another cause is insufficient blinking such as when you are staring at a computer screen all day.

3. Dry eyes are also a symptom of systemic diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, rosacea or Sjorgren’s Syndrome (a triad of dry eyes, dry mouth and rheumatoid arthritis).

4. Incomplete closure of the eyelids, eyelid disease and a deficiency of the tear producing glands are other causes. Tears are composed of three layers.  Each layer is produced by a different set of ocular glands, so a problem with any of these sources can result in a dry eye.

Dry Eye Treatment

Until now, the main treatment for dry eye has involved the use of a variety of artificial tears.

1. One eye drop, Restasis , actually helps your eyes increase tear production. However many people claim it burns their eyes too much to use.

2. Recent research has demonstrated that one of the most promising systems for alleviating the pain caused by the worst dry eye ocular surface conditions is the scleral contact lens. This is a contact lens that covers the whole eye.  

In eyes suffering from extreme ocular surface disease, scleral lenses have been successful in eliminating pain and light sensitivity. Devastating dry eyes resulting from LASIK surgery are best taken care of with scleral lenses. Post-lasik corneas often have very irregular surfaces surgically induced in addition to the dry eye condition. Scleral lenses will address both of these conditions extremely well in most cases.


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