Windy days, long plane rides, or prolonged eye strain can lead to temporary eye dryness. But if your eyes feel like the Sahara Desert all the time, you may have a condition called chronic dry eye, in which you don’t produce adequate tears — quality or quantity — to keep your eyes lubricated and protected.
If you have dry eyes and live in or around Houston, Texas, you have access to dry eye specialist, Dr. Sophia Barnes at Vision Corner, who was voted the No. 1 optometrist in the area. The combination of her vast experience, exceptional patient care, and advanced technology means you can trust Dr. Barnes with every aspect of your eye health.
If you suspect you may have chronic dry eyes, here’s more information about the condition and six classic signs to help you know when to see your optometrist for treatment.
What’s in a tear?
To understand why dry eyes are a problem, it’s important to know what’s in your tears. Every time you blink, you spread a thin layer of moisture over your eyeball. Even though you’re not crying, this film is still called tears. The clear liquid of tears contains three distinct layers.
At the heart of each teardrop is a layer of mucus that helps distribute your tears across the surface of your eyes.
Water, the middle layer, makes up the largest percentage of tear composition, and it does what water does best — cleans away dust, particles, and irritants.
The outer layer of a tear is an oily substance that coats your eyes with a smooth protectant to help hold moisture in.
How to recognize chronic dry eye
The difference between temporary dry eye and chronic dry eye is a matter of longevity. Your symptoms may last a few days or so and then resolve on their own. However, if you’ve been dealing with the problem for three months or more, it’s time to have Dr. Barnes examine your eyes and analyze your tears.
Here are six classic dry eye symptoms:
Eye redness can point to several different causes, including lack of sleep, excess alcohol consumption, minor irritation, allergies, and infection. It’s also one of the main symptoms of chronic dry eye.
2. Blurry vision
Tears help keep your eyes focused and clear. When you don’t have enough tears, you may find it difficult to read, use your smartphone, or work on your computer.
3. Stinging, itching, burning
When you lose the lubrication in your eyes, they become irritated and sometimes painful. Some people say their eyelids feel like sandpaper rubbing against their eyes. This makes it difficult to tolerate contact lenses.
4. Light sensitivity
Many people who have chronic dry eyes also experience sensitivity to light (photophobia) because the condition irritates the trigeminal nerve, which provides feeling and function to your eye.
To protect themselves, your eyes may ramp up production of mucus, in which case, you may notice a buildup of discharge in the corners of your eyes or white strings of mucus stretching from your lower to upper lids.
6. Watery eyes
In addition to extra mucus, your eyes flood themselves with more water to stop the irritation. In an ironic twist of fate, one of the symptoms of dry eyes is watery eyes.
How to get your tears back
Once Dr. Barnes diagnoses your condition, she recommends a treatment based on the severity of your symptoms and the underlying cause. Sometimes, simple lifestyle changes are all it takes to get your eyes back to normal. For instance, if you, your family, or your co-workers smoke, quitting can allow your eyes to produce more tears on their own.
Extended use of contact lenses can also lead to chronic dry eye, so you may need to switch to glasses for a while. Likewise, changing your habits with electronic devices that cause you to stare a lot and blink less can help.
If your chronic dry eyes are due to a medical condition, such as rheumatoid arthritis or thyroid problem, see your primary health care provider about treatment. Meanwhile, Dr. Barnes can let you know if over-the-counter or prescription-strength eye drops can help your chronic dry eye condition.
Left untreated, chronic dry eyes can lead to nerve damage, so don’t just suffer with the symptoms — the solution is often simple. Schedule an appointment with our team at Vision Corner online, or call us today.