Chronic Dry Eye

Studies have found that women are at greater risk for chronic dry eye, and that as many as one in 12 women over age 50 are affected by this condition. This may be due in part to hormonal changes during menopause.

Dry eye results when your eyes do not produce a sufficient amount of tears or when the eyes produce an imbalanced tear. Tears are the combination of water, oils, mucus and special proteins secreted by glands around the eye; an imbalanced tear results when one of the tear components is either over or under produced.

Symptoms, which may range from mild to severe, include a feeling that something is in your eye, itchy, burning or scratchy eyes, and blurred vision. People with chronic symptoms are at greater risk for developing eye infections and permanent vision problems.

While there is no cure for chronic dry eye, many treatment options from over-the-counter eye drops to prescription therapies and surgery are available to lessen symptoms. Other tips for living with chronic dry eye include:

  • Take breaks when using a computer or reading to blink and rest your eyes.
  • Wear wrap-around sunglasses to keep wind from blowing into your eyes.
  • Use a humidifier to keep the air in your home or work area moist.
  • Talk to your eye doctor about what contact lenses work best.
  • Discuss with your eye doctor which over-the-counter eye drops will work best.
  • Resist rubbing your eyes.
  • Do not smoke.
  • Avoid second-hand smoke, direct wind, and sitting near vents or fans.

Cold and allergy medications, heart and blood pressure medications, hormone replacement therapy, contact lenses, and other medical conditions such as diabetes and arthritis also can trigger dry eye symptoms. If you have symptoms of dry eye, you should consult your eye doctor or physician to discuss your concerns.