Dry Eyes

Printer-friendly versionSend by emailPDF version

What is dry eye?

Normally, the eye constantly bathes itself in tears.  By producing tears at a slow and steady rate, the eye stays moist and comfortable.  

Sometimes people do not produce enough tears or the appropriate quality of tears to keep their eyes healthy and comfortable.  This condition is known as dry eye.

The eye uses two different methods to produce tears. It can make tears at a slow, steady rate to maintain normal eye lubrications.  it can also produce large quantities of tears in response to eye irritation or emotion.  When a foreign body or dyness irritates the eye, or when a person cries, excessive tearing occurs.

What are the sytmptoms of dry eye?

The usual symptoms include:

  • stinging or burning eyes
  • scratchiness
  • stringy mucus in or around the eyes
  • excessive eye irritation from smoke or wind
  • excess tearing
  • discomfort when wearing contact lenses

Excessive tearing from "dry eye" may sound illogical, but it can be understood as they eye's response to discomfort.  If the tears responsible for maintaining lubrication do not keep the eye wet enough, the eye becomes irritated.  Eye irritation prompts the gland that makes tears (called the lacrimal gland) to release a large volume of tears, overwhelming the tear drainage system.  These excess tears then overflow from your eye.

How is dry eye treated?


Eyedrops called artificial tears are similar to your own tears.  They lubricated the eyes and help maintain moisture.

Artificial tears are available without a prescription.  There are many brands on the market, so yo umay want to try several to find the one you like best.

Preservative-free eyedrops are available for people who are sensitive to the preservatives in artificial tears.  If you need to use artificial tears more than eveyr two hours, preservative-free brands may be better for you.

You can use the artivicial tears as often as necessary-once or twice a day or as often as several times an hour.


Conserving your eyes' own tears is another approach to keeping the eyes moist.  Tears drain out of the eye through a small chanel into the nose (whish is why your nose runs when you cry).  Your ophthalmologist may close these channels either temporarily or permanently.  The closure conserves your own tears and makes aritificial tears last longer.