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What is Chronic Dry Eye?

Article Details
  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 09 January 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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Chronic dry eye is an ophthalmological condition characterized by reduced tear production, which causes the eyes to feel dry. In addition to causing physical discomfort, this can also lead to damage to the eye, which may have long-term consequences such as vision impairment. This condition can be diagnosed by an ophthalmologist, and a number of treatments are available to deal with chronic dry eye, from medications to stimulate tear production to changes in dietary habits which can reduce the incidence of dry eye.

One of the biggest risk factors for chronic dry eye is age, but people can develop this condition at any time. Some common symptoms include itching and irritation in the eyeball, blurred vision, or a feeling that the eyes are dry and gritty. The patient may feel like his or her eyes are dry, or the symptoms may be more vague, but still irritating, causing the patient to think that they are caused by eye strain or the need for new glasses.

This condition happens when the tear glands around the eye do not produce enough fluid. Tears lubricate the eye, and they also flush the eye to remove contaminants such as dust. When tear production decreases, the eye does not get enough lubrication, and people tend to feel very uncomfortable. If chronic dry eye is allowed to persist, the eye can become torn or otherwise damaged.

Treatments for keratoconjunctivitis sicca, as it is formally known, usually revolve around getting more moisture into the eye. Over the counter and prescription products can directly lubricate the eye or increase tear production. Sometimes, changes in diet, such as integrating more omega-3 fatty acids, or drinking more water, compensate for chronic dry eye and increase comfort. It is also possible to plug the ducts which drain tears from the eye, which will help the eyes retain moisture.

It is important to seek treatment for chronic dry eye, ideally as soon as possible to ensure that it can be promptly and effectively addressed. There is no reason to suffer with irritated eyes when treatment is relatively simple and often very affordable, and it is always a good idea to prevent long term damage to the eyes, especially for people who are young. Treating chronic dry eye can also improve performance at work or in school, and contribute to quality of life by making the patient more comfortable; sometimes people don't realize how debilitating dry eye can be until they get treatment and find many routine tasks much easier.

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