Dry Eye

Dry-Eyes And Some Of Its Symptoms

The eye is normally constantly soaking in tears. Tears are being produced at the same pace keeping the eye moistened and relaxed.  Keeping the eyes healthy and comfortable depends on having the ability to produce the right quality of tears. Some people are not able to produce enough tears and/or the right quality of tears, this is referred to as dry-eye.  There are two methods for the eye to produce tears, and the eye uses both of them. When someone has an emotion that consist of crying, or the eye gets irritated, the eye will automatically produce a larger quantity of tears.  The same thing applies when a foreign body gets into the eye, this is also the case when the eye gets irritated from being to dry.  A few others ways that cause the eyes to produce a larger amount of tears are when a person cries, this will naturally cause the eye to produce a much bigger quantity of tears.

Are there symptoms for dry-eye?

Yes, the symptoms include:

  • Scratchiness in the eye and also in the corners of the eye.
  • Excessive tears, having watery eyes.
  • Stringy mucus in the eyes and around the edges of the eyes.
  • Having discomfort when wearing contacts.
  • The eyes may sting or have a burning sensation.
  • The eyes may be overly dry due to a lot of smoke and/or a lot of wind (even being in front of a fan).

When there is an irritation of the eye it triggers the lacrimal gland (the gland responsible for keeping the eye lubricated) then it releases a large quantity of tears which overwhelms the drainage system of the eye. This in turn makes the tears over flow and washes out the eye.

What is the purpose of the eyes blinking?

Blinking of the eye causes a film of tears to cover the entire eye making the outer layer of the eye smooth and clear.  If the eye could not blink there wouldn’t ever be a tear film, and if there were never any tear film it would not be possible to ever have good vision.

The three layers of tear film are:

  • A layer of mucus.
  • A layer of water.
  • A layer that is oily.

Each of the three layers have a purpose of their own.
The main purpose of the oily layer is to make the tear surface smooth.  Its purpose is to clean and wash the eye of any foreign particles and irritants.  The mucus helps the eye to remain moist by spreading over the surface evenly.

What is the reason for dry-eyes?

The production of tears decreases with age. Although both men and women get dry-eye, and it can occur at any age, women are affected by dry-eye more than men, this is certainly true after the menopause stage of life.  There are other reasons for getting dry-eye. An example of that would be the Sjogren’s Syndrome. Those with Sjogren’s syndrome have dry-eyes, a dry mouth, and also arthritis.  Anyone interested in learning more about Sjogren’s syndrome can check-out the resource section in this handout.

There are a number of different medications that can reduce the secretions of tears causing dry-eyes, many of them are prescription drugs, but some can be bought over the counter.  When seeing an ophthalmologist (Eye M.D.) be sure to let them know of all the medications being taken.

Especially if any are in the list below:

  • Pain relievers
  • Beta blockers for blood pressure and/or the heart
  • Medications for nerves
  • Diuretics for high blood pressure
  • Antihistamines for allergies

However, there are several different types of eye drops available known as artificial tears and the dry-eye can be treated with one of these temporally.  The toxic side effects of eye medications can affect those with dry-eye more than normally. This also includes the artificial tears. It’s the preservatives in them, and they can irritate the eyes of people with dry-eyes more than normally.  In cases such as people with dry-eyes will need to use a special type of eye drops, they will need eye drops that have no preservatives, or rather they would need artificial tears that are preservative free.

How do they diagnose dry-eye?

The eyes are examined by an ophthalmologist in order to diagnose for dry-eye. Tear production can be measured and there are certain tests just for this. The Schirmer is one of the tear tests.  This test is performed by putting filtered paper strips below the lower eye lids and it will measure the how fast the tears are being produces under a variety of conditions.  There is another tear test that uses diagnostic drops on the eyes and then they can determine the different patterns of dryness that shows upon the eyes surface.

What are the treatments for dry-eye?

Adding Tears

Dry-eye can be treated by using artificial tears. Artificial teas are eye drops that produce moisture on the eye and lubricate it temporarily. These can be bought over the counter and there are several to choose from.  Sensitive people can purchase preservative free eye drops. Anyone that will be using the eye drops more than every two hours should use the preservative free eye drops.  It is alright to use the eye drops whenever they are needed. There are some different treatment options available as well, they include gels, ointments, and inserts.

Tears should be conserved

Keeping natural tears conserved will help in keeping the eyes moist. The reason the nose runs when crying is because tears drain through a small channel into the nose.  An ophthalmologist can close this channel temporary or even permanently. When the channel is closed it will preserve real tears making artificial tears last longer.

More methods

In the winter when a heater is in use either get a humidifier or boil water on top of the stove, this will help to keep the eyes from drying out.  People with dry-eyes should avoid an overly warm room, hair dryers, wind, fans blowing directly in the face, and smoke.  If a person finds that when they wake up in the morning and have itchy eyes they should start using artificial tear drops before going to sleep at night.  Supplementing diets with Omega-3 fatty acids can be of help.  If none of these methods seem to help there is a prescription medication called cyclosporine (Restasis), this works to stimulate the production of tears.  There is steroid eye drops which is only intended for short term use.  In the United States dry-eye is common due to the lack of vitamin A. There is an ointment that contains vitamin A and has been found helpful for dry-eye when caused by unusual conditions.  One of those conditions is the Steven-Johnson syndrome, but doesn’t seem to be of any help for those without the condition.


The following organization can give more information on dry-eye. If interested please contact them @

Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation
6707 Democracy Boulevard, Suite 325
Bethesda, MD 20817