Dry eye syndrome is caused by a chronic lack of sufficient lubrication and moisture on the surface of the eye. It is one of the most common eye conditions worldwide and a primary reason for visits to your Spec-Savers Optometrist!

Symptoms of dry eyes and dry eye syndrome include:

  • Burning sensation
  • Itchy eye
  • Aching sensation
  • Heavy eye
  • Fatigued eye
  • Sore eye
  • Dryness sensation
  • Red eye
  • Photophobia
  • Blurred vision

Another common symptom is the feeling that grit or some other object or material is "in" your eye. And as odd as it may sound, watery eye also can be a symptom of dry eye syndrome.

This is because dryness on the eye's surface sometimes will over-stimulate production of the watery component of your tears as a protective mechanism. But this "reflex tearing" does not stay on the eye long enough to correct the underlying dry eye condition.

In addition to these symptoms, dry eyes can cause inflammation and (sometimes permanent) damage to the surface of the eye.

Factors associated with dry eye syndrome

A number of factors can increase your risk of dry eyes. These include:

  • Computer use — When working at a computer or using a smartphone or other portable digital device, we tend to blink our eyes less fully and less frequently, which leads to greater tear evaporation and increased risk of dry eye symptoms.
  • Aging — Dry eye syndrome can occur at any age, but it becomes increasingly more common later in life, especially after age 50.
  • Menopause — Post-menopausal women are at greater risk of dry eyes than men of the same age.
  • Indoor environment — Air conditioning, ceiling fans and forced air heating systems all can decrease indoor humidity and/or hasten tear evaporation, causing dry eye symptoms.
  • Outdoor environment — Arid climates and dry or windy conditions increase dry eye risks.
  • Frequent flying — The air in the cabins of airplanes is extremely dry and can lead to dry eye problems, especially among frequent flyers.
  • Smoking — In addition to dry eyes, smoking has been linked to serious eye problems, including macular degeneration, and cataracts.

The only way to know for sure if you've got chronic dry eye syndrome is to have your eye doctor perform one or more dry eye tests during an eye exam.

Symptoms alone are poor predictors of the presence and severity of dry eye disease. Symptoms can vary significantly from person to person, and may even be affected by personality type.

Dry eye treatment and prevention

Thankfully, there are effective treatment options if you suffer from chronic dry eye.

In many cases, routine use of artificial tears and minor behavioural modifications (taking frequent breaks during computer use, for example) can significantly reduce dry eye symptoms.

In other cases, your Spec-Savers Optometrist might recommend prescription eye medications and in-office procedures to help your body create and secrete more tears and to decrease eye irritation and inflammation.