Dry eye is the loss or reduction of the eye's ability to produce normal tears. It is one of the most frequent causes of visits to an eye care professional. A variety of factors may cause or contribute to this problem. Some are age-related, some are related to the environment. It is a common and manageable condition.
Dry eye can come from a number of causes, both physical and environmental. One common cause is when tear glands slow down tear production – a normal occurrence that happens with age, especially in women going through menopause.
Tear quality may also be the cause of dry eyes. In a normal tear, there are three layers – mucin, aqueous, and lipid layers. These three layers work together to provide the proper amount of moisture, distribute moisture evenly across the cornea, and prevent evaporation that can cause eyes to become dry. If any of the three layers is compromised, the eye may not get the nourishment and protection it needs. Most commonly, there is not enough lipid in the tears, leading to the evaporation of the tear film that causes dry eye.
Diminished tear production may be associated with certain medications, such as:
Dry Eye syndrome is a chronic condition that may not be completely curable. However, the comfort and the health of your eye can be improved through the use of artificial tears. Mild dry eye symptoms may be treated with over-the-counter medications such as artificial tears, gels, and ointments. Consult with your eye care professional to determine the cause, which guides treatment strategy.