If your eyes are constantly dry and itchy or if you feel like your eyes are always watering, you may have a condition called dry eye, where your tear ducts don’t produce enough tears to keep your eyes clean and moisturized. Dr. Steven L. Cahan, a board-certified ophthalmologist practicing in Asheville, North Carolina, offers diagnosis and treatment for dry eyes to improve your comfort and eye health. Call or schedule an appointment online today.
A normal, healthy eye is always covered in a film of tears that helps keep the eye clean and moist. Your eyes should produce these lubricating tears at a slow and steady rate, spreading them over the exposed front of your eye every time you blink. These tears are different from the large quantities of tears made in response to emotion or irritation.
When your eyes don’t produce enough of the lubricating tears or if the tears don’t have enough of any or all of three different components — an oily layer, a watery layer, and a mucus layer — your eyes won’t be sufficiently moisturized and you’ll develop dry eye.
Dry eye causes a variety of uncomfortable symptoms including:
There are a variety of conditions and issues that contribute to the development of dry eye. For example, as you get older, your body naturally produces fewer tears. Other causes of dry eye include:
Dr. Cahan diagnoses dry eye with a comprehensive eye exam. He may also use tests that measure tear production like the Schirmer’s test. The Schirmer’s test involves putting small strips of filter paper under your lower eyelids to measure your rate of tear production. Dr. Cahan may also use diagnostic drops to evaluate your tear film and check for signs of dryness on your eyeball.
Dr. Cahan uses a variety of treatments to treat your dry eye, depending on your condition and your needs. You may benefit from the use of artificial teardrops to keep your eyes moist and comfortable. Artificial tears are available without a prescription, although you may want to avoid cheaper, generic brands as they tend to include irritating preservatives.
Dr. Cahan can also temporarily close your tear ducts to help you conserve tears. He places small plugs in your tear ducts that slowly dissolve over a few months. In addition to conserving your natural tears, this treatment helps your artificial tears last longer.
Dr. Cahan can also prescribe medications like cyclosporine and steroids to stimulate tear production.
You can take steps to control your environment to slow the rate of tear evaporation. For example, you can use a humidifier during the winter months when the air is drier and your heating system dries out your indoor environment. You can also eat more foods containing omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, nuts, and flax seeds to add more oils and moisture to your body.
Call or make an appointment online today if you’re concerned about dry eye.