Chronic Dry Eye (known by doctors as keratoconjunctivitis sicca) is among the least understood eye conditions that affect large numbers of people. Many people mistake the dry eye symptoms for allergies, climatic conditions, or just "eyestrain".
Your eyes need a constant layer of tears — called the "tear film"— to maintain and protect the ocular surface. In Chronic Dry Eye, underlying changes to the health of the tear-producing glands can result in a change in the quantity and quality of the tears you make. This results in a tear film that can no longer provide enough nourishment or protection to the surface of your eye. This can lead to damage of your eye’s surface, which, in turn, can lead to the symptoms of Chronic Dry Eye.
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Dry eye syndrome is a condition in which there are insufficient tears to lubricate and nourish the eye. Tears are necessary for maintaining the health of the front surface of the eye and for providing clear vision. People with dry eye do not produce enough tears or have a poor quality of tears. Dry eye syndrome is a common and often chronic problem, particularly in older adults. With each blink of the eyelids, tears are spread across the front surface of the eye known as the cornea.
Tears provide lubrication, reduce the risk of eye infection, wash away foreign matter in the eye, and keep the surface of the eye smooth and clear. Excess tears in the eyes flow into small drainage ducts in the inner corners of the eyelids, which drain in the back of the nose. Dry eyes can result from an improper balance of tear production and drainage.
People with dry eye syndrome may experience symptoms of irritated, scratchy, gritty or burning eyes, a feeling of something in their eyes, excess watering, or blurred vision. Advanced dry eyes may even damage the front surface of the eye and impair vision. The development of dry eyes may have many causes including age, gender, medications, medical conditions, environmental conditions, and more.
Dry eyes can be a chronic condition, but your eye doctor can prescribe treatment to keep your eyes healthy, more comfortable, and prevent your vision from being affected. Specific treatments aim to restore or maintain the normal amount of tears in the eye to minimize dryness or related discomfort and to maintain eye health. For more information, schedule a visit with your eye doctor.