Dry eye syndrome includes an array of symptoms, including:
Dry eye syndrome almost always affects both eyes. Many people with dry eyes may not be able to wear contact lenses or will need to have frequent eye exams to ensure the cornea remains in good health and doesn't become scratched or irritated by inadequate moisture in the eye. Because tears help cleanse the eye, without proper management, dry eyes may also increase the risk of eye infections.
Dry eyes can have many causes. Today, one of the most common causes of dry eyes is staring for long periods of time at a computer or other electronic device. Prolonged staring tends to suppress the blinking action that is necessary for proper lubrication of the eye surface. Plus the bright lights of computer screens can exacerbate dry eyes. Other causes include problems with the quantity or quality of the tears and problems with the way the tears are distributed across the eye surface, including problems with the eyelids. Plugged tear ducts can also cause dry eyes, and so can prolonged use of medications like acne drugs, high blood pressure medicines, and allergy medications.
Treatment for dry eyes depends on what is causing them. Sometimes, dry eye can be treated with lifestyle changes, like taking breaks when using a computer or performing other near work. Many patients benefit from lubricating prescription eye drops, but self-medicating with over-the-counter eye drops should be avoided since long-term use can make symptoms worse. In a few cases, such as when tear ducts are blocked, or eyelids turn inward (entropion) or outward (ectropion), surgery may be needed to correct the cause.
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