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What is Dry Eye?
The eye has a tear film that coats the eye's outer layer. New tears form in glands located around the eye and they keep the moisture level in the eye balanced. This protective film is important for comfort and clear vision. Some people do not produce enough tears to keep the eyes wet and comfortable. This condition is known as dry eye, one of the most common eye conditions.
Dry eye results from a variety of causes, but aging is the single highest factor. As people age, the production of tears decreases. Although it occurs in women and men, post-menopausal women are most affected.
Other causes of dry eye can include:
Dry eye symptoms include a dry, gritty or burning sensation in the eyes, redness, watery or teary eyes and mucus that make the eyes feel "glued shut" after sleeping. Many people also report the feeling of something in the eye or eyestrain. Itching and light sensitivity may also occur. Symptoms are usually worse late in the day.
Very often, dry eye can be diagnosed based on symptoms. Optometrists also use a variety of tests including measuring tear production, special dyes, and evaluation of the constitution of the tear film in order to confirm the diagnosis. These tests serve to rule out other potential problems, such as conjunctivitis, that can produce the same symptoms.
If dry eye is left untreated, it can damage tissue and scar the cornea. Treatment of dry eye is directed at wetting the eye, reducing inflammation, improving the work/home environment and evaluating overall health, medications and diet.
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