Dry Eyes: Causes, Symptoms, and Effective Treatment Options

‍Dry eyes, a common eye condition that affects millions worldwide, is often misunderstood. As a seasoned ophthalmologist, I've seen countless patients who suffer from this condition, but lack a comprehensive understanding of it. In simple terms, dry eyes occur when your tear glands don't produce enough tears for adequate lubrication of your eyes. The condition is also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca, and it's not just a minor inconvenience but a significant, persistent issue that can compromise your quality of life.

Dry eyes can affect anyone, regardless of age or gender, but it's more prevalent among older adults. Studies suggest that nearly 5 million Americans aged 50 years and older experience dry eye symptoms. This is likely due to the natural aging process, which decreases tear production. Dry eyes can cause a variety of uncomfortable symptoms such as stinging, burning, redness, and intermittent blurred vision.

Understanding the anatomy of the eye can help grasp why dry eyes occur. Your eyes are covered by a thin layer of liquid known as the tear film. This film is essential in maintaining clear vision and keeping your eyes moist and comfortable. Tear film consists of three layers: an oily (lipid) layer, a watery (aqueous) layer, and a mucus layer. An imbalance in this tear system can lead to dry eyes.

Common Causes of Dry Eyes

Dry eyes can be attributed to a variety of factors. Understanding these causes is the first step in effectively managing the condition. One common cause is the natural aging process. As we age, our body's ability to produce tears reduces, leading to dry eyes. Women are particularly susceptible due to hormonal changes during menopause.

Another common cause is exposure to environmental conditions. Dry, windy, or smoky environments can evaporate tears quickly, leading to dry eyes. Spending long hours staring at digital screens can also trigger dry eyes. This is because when we focus on screens, we tend to blink less, causing tears to evaporate faster.

Medical conditions and medications can also cause dry eyes. Conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and thyroid problems can disrupt tear production, leading to dry eyes. Certain medications, including antihistamines, decongestants, blood pressure medications, and antidepressants, can reduce tear production. Lastly, wearing contact lenses for extended periods can also contribute to dry eyes.

Recognizing Dry Eye Symptoms: What to Look For

Recognizing dry eye symptoms is crucial in seeking timely treatment. Common symptoms include a stinging or burning sensation in the eyes, redness, sensitivity to light, feeling of something in the eyes, difficulty wearing contact lenses, difficulty with nighttime driving, and vision disturbances. In some cases, paradoxically, dry eyes can cause watery eyes. This is because the dryness may trigger an overproduction of the watery component of your tears as a protective response.

It's important to note that these symptoms can also be signs of other eye conditions. Therefore, if you experience any persistent discomfort, it's imperative to consult an eye care professional for a comprehensive eye examination. They can accurately diagnose the condition and suggest appropriate dry eye treatment.

Dry Eye Treatment

Available Dry Eye Treatment Options

When it comes to dry eye treatment, the goal is to restore or maintain the normal amount of tears in the eyes to minimize dryness and related discomfort and to maintain eye health. Depending on the cause and severity, dry eye treatment can include lifestyle changes, over-the-counter remedies, prescription medications, or surgical interventions.

Over-the-counter treatments include artificial tear drops and ointments, which can provide temporary relief from dry eye symptoms. Prescription treatments can include medications to reduce eyelid inflammation, eye drops to increase tear production, or tear-stimulating drugs.

In severe cases, surgical interventions may be recommended. One option is punctal plugs, tiny devices inserted into the tear ducts to block drainage and keep the eye surface lubricated. Another is thermal cautery, a procedure that permanently seals the tear ducts to retain tears on the eye.

Preventive Measures: How to Keep Your Eyes Healthy

Preventing dry eyes is possible with some lifestyle modifications and a proactive approach to eye health. For instance, make an effort to blink regularly, especially when reading or staring at a computer screen for long periods. This can help refresh your tear film and prevent dryness.

Adjusting your environment can also help. Use a humidifier to add moisture to dry indoor air. Avoid exposure to wind, smoke, and direct air from heaters or air conditioners, which can dry out your eyes. Wearing sunglasses outdoors, particularly wraparound styles, can protect your eyes from wind and dry air.

Maintaining a healthy diet can also contribute to eye health. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts, can help improve tear quality and alleviate dry eye symptoms.


Dry eyes can be a disruptive condition, but with the right understanding, treatment, and preventive measures, it is manageable. Remember to consult an eye care professional if you experience persistent dry eye symptoms. They can provide a comprehensive eye exam and devise an effective dry eye treatment plan tailored to your needs.

In conclusion, maintaining a proactive approach to eye health, making necessary lifestyle adjustments, and staying consistent with your treatment can significantly improve your quality of life by alleviating the discomfort of dry eyes. Your vision is precious; take the necessary steps to protect and preserve it.

For more information on dry eye treatments or to schedule an appointment to talk to us about the symptoms you are experiencing, please contact our experienced eye care team today at 718-565-2020.