By Bernard Freeman
Tears, while they seem like simple droplets of water and emotion, are made of fatty oils, water, mucus and more than 1,500 proteins, according to the National Eye Institute. Their role is to keep surfaces smooth and protected from environmental elements, but when the body can’t produce them naturally, your eyes suffer.
Fortunately, most cases won’t lead to long-term damage if treated quickly. However, extreme irritation and discomfort are common symptoms affecting millions of Americans.
Who is at Risk?
While the condition is more common in older people, dry eye can be a sign there is an underlying symptom at the source. If you feel you are suffering from dry eye, it’s important to schedule an appointment with your doctor. The American Academy of Ophthalmology states the issue can be caused by serious diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, blepharitis, and entropion or ectropion.
The academy also reports that the condition can occur in both men and women, but females are more at risk to develop it, especially after menopause.
Typically, a comprehensive eye examination is required to diagnose a case of dry eye. Your doctor will evaluate the external integrity of the eye and both eyelids and cornea. An exam plus a patient’s medical history, seriousness of symptoms and analyzing general health problems will give your practitioner an understanding on the best strategy for treatment.
Unfortunately, dry eyes are considered a chronic condition but with different treatments, you can still be comfortable. Here are a few ways your doctor may decide to treat the symptoms, as reported by the American Optometric Association.
- Adding tears – Mild cases can be treated using artificial-tear solutions. Most medication is available over the counter and should be used to supplement natural tear production.
- Conserving tears – More serious cases may require silicone plugs being installed into tear ducts. The goal is to keep lubricants available to service the eye longer.
- Increase tear production – If the problem is due to the inability to create enough tears, a doctor may recommend an eye drop which enhances your body’s abilities.