The usual symptoms of dry eyes include stinging or burning, scratchiness or gritty and sandy feeling, stringy mucus, excess irritation from smoke or wind, discomfort when wearing contact lenses and even tearing.
Dry eye may be caused by decreased tear production which often happens as we age and is most common in women especially after menopause. Poor quality tears due to an abnormality of any of the three layers of the natural tears can cause symptoms of dryness.
It may also be associated with many of the autoimmune or collagen vascular diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or Sjogrens syndrome. It may also be present in some types of thyroid disease and as side effects of some common medications.
Diagnosis of the condition is made by taking into account both the history and findings on the exam. This may include measuring the tear production or looking for signs of dryness on the surface of the eye. Treatment may include replacement of the natural tears with lubricating artificial tears or prescription drops which help to produce more and better quality natural tears. Other treatments may include methods to keep your own tears in contact with the eye for longer periods of time, adding certain supplements to your diet and avoiding certain environmental situations which can worsen the drying effects of the tears.