If your eyes burn and sting, if you have a foreign body sensation (like grit), if your eyes are sensitive to light, or if your vision is intermittently blurred, you could have dry eye syndrome.
To diagnosis dry eye, your ophthalmologist will examine your eyes with a slit lamp using a special stain. He or she may also use a filter paper test called a “Schirmer test”.
Dry eyes are common in the elderly. Dry eyes can result either from a decrease in tear production or from a change in the amount of fluid in tears, which makes the tears excessively salty. Women are affected more often than men. Dry eyes get worse when the air humidity is low, for example, in winter, and in the summer, with air conditioning.
Dry eyes can be caused by some medications, such as antidepressants, antihistamines, decongestants, acne medication, beta blockers (which are used for rapid pulse and high blood pressure) and diuretics, Chemotherapy and radiation can also cause dry eye and so can certain diseases like arthritis, high or low thyroid and acne rosacea. Dry eye often develops in patients who have had Lasik surgery or cosmetic lid surgery.
The treatment for dry eye syndrome depends on the severity. For mild dry eye, your doctor will recommend an artificial tear, such as Refresh or Tears Naturalle, for you to use several times a day.
For moderate dry eye, when you must use drops more than four times a day, you should switch to preservative free tears (eg. Refresh PF), and use them every few hours. You should also add a lubricating ointment or gel (eg. Genteal gel) at night. A humidifier in your bedroom at night is essential, especially in the winter.
For severe dry eye, your doctor may suggest a mild anti-inflammatory drop, such as FML or Acular. Punctal occlusion (silicon inserts placed in the tear drain) can also be considered.
NB: Patients with dry eyes should not have Lasik or cosmetic lid surgery, or wear soft contact lenses.