One of the most common problems seen in the eye doctor's office is dry eyes. As we age, the protective tear film on the surface of the eye diminishes. This leaves the delicate tissues of the eye exposed to the drying effects of air, wind, dust and the sun. It is not a problem in making tears; to the contrary, many patients complain of wet eyes and tearing with this malady. This is because the dryness produces a reflex tearing in an effort to keep the eye well lubricated.In many people the dryness is worse in the afternoon and evenings. Since we blink less frequently when we read, reading can also aggravate the symptoms of dry eyes. Sometimes environmental factors play a role as well.Dry weather, either in the hot or cold temperatures robs the eye of needed lubricants. Cigarette smoke, fumes, dust and airborne particles are common irritants. In most patients this condition is NOT associated with any systemic disease.Symptoms include burning, stinging, or a gritty sensation which may come and go depending on many factors. Itching, tearing, and light sensitivity may bother other patients. Occasionally long strings of mucus can be stretched from a dry eye.
   TREATMENT is helpful in most patients. We cannot cure this condition, so treatment must be an ongoing project. Usually artificial tears, available over the counter, soothe the eyes and give temporary relief. The most commonly used ones are CELLUFRESH, AQUASITE, HYPOTEARS, TEARS NATURAL, and REFRESH. The problem is that they only work for an hour or two, at best,and must be repeated at frequent intervals. Ointments last longer, but they blur vision and are most effective at night. The best ointments are DURATEARS, HYPOTEARS, LACRILUBE, and REFRESH P.M.
  The medicines WITHOUT preservatives are preferable to those with preservatives. Newer methods of treatment which have an effect on seriously dry eyes are soft contact lenses in combination with artificial tears. Sometimes a slow release medicine under the lower lid is helpful as well. Tear ducts, which carry tears and lubricants from the eye into the nose, can be blocked temporarily or permanently. This procedure increases the available tears in the eye, thus relieving the dry eye condition. Humidifiers at home andwork can be helpful as well. Much research is being done on this subject because it is such a common problem. Time release artificial tears seem to hold the most promise, but details of its use are still being worked out.

© nholland 2002