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Dry Eyes

Dry Eye Syndrome

What is dry eye? — Dry eye happens when your eyes either do not make enough tears or the tears that they make evaporate (go away) too quickly. This causes your eyes to feel dry and irritated. The medical term for dry eye is "keratoconjunctivitis sicca."
What causes dry eye? — Many people have dry eye, including about one-third of older adults. A few people with dry eye might have another disease, such as Sjögren's syndrome, diabetes, or Parkinson disease. Some medicines can cause dry eye symptoms or make them worse.
What are the symptoms of dry eye? — People have different symptoms but the most common ones are eyes that:
Feel dry or burn
Look red
Other symptoms can include:
Being bothered by light
Feeling like something is in your eyes
Blurry vision
Watery eyes
Discomfort wearing contact lenses
In some people the symptoms are worse when it is cold or windy or if they are in a dry environment.
Should I see a doctor or nurse? — Yes. If your eye stays red, irritated, or painful for several days, you should see your doctor or nurse.
Will I need tests? — Probably not. The doctor or nurse should be able to tell if you have dry eye by learning about your symptoms and doing an exam.
How is dry eye treated? — "Artificial tears" are the main treatment for dry eye. They can keep the eye moist and help with the symptoms of dry eye. You can buy artificial tears at the drug store or grocery store without a prescription. They come in liquid, gel, or ointments. Your doctor or nurse will help you decide which form is best for you. It is usually best to avoid eye drops that are meant to reduce redness.
Artificial tears help with the symptoms of dry eye, but they do not cure the condition. They work only as long as you keep using them.
Other things you can do to help improve your symptoms are:
Try to blink a lot, especially when you are reading or using the computer. This helps keep your eye moist.
Avoid excess air conditioning or heating as much as you can. Also avoid sitting directly in the flow of the cold or hot air.
Use a humidifier in your bedroom and any other space where you spend a lot of time.
Avoid smoke and smoky air
Wear protective eyewear when you are outside. Glasses that cover more of your face, or have special shields on the sides, can protect your eyes from wind and dry air.
If your dry eye does not get better in 3 to 4 weeks, your doctor or nurse might send you to see an eye doctor (called an "ophthalmologist"). The eye doctor can do more tests and might suggest other treatments. These include prescription eye drops or ointments, special glasses or goggles, oral medicines (pills), or surgery.
All topics are updated as new evidence becomes available and our peer review process is complete.
This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Mar 30, 2020.
Topic 83060 Version 14.0
Release: 28.2.2 - C28.105
© 2020 UpToDate, Inc. and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.

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