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Have your eyes ever felt dry? Maybe stinging, scratchy, or even a burning sensation? Maybe even watery eyes? As crazy as it sounds, watery eyes are often an indication of possible dry eye syndrome.

What is dry eye?

Dry eye is a very common eye condition which affects a lot of people at varying levels of degree.

The tear film consists of 3 important layers for function properly:

  1. The watery (aqueous) component made by the lacrimal gland in the upper eyelid
  2. The oily (lipid) component produced by little glands on the margins of the top and bottom of your eyelid – it stops the tears evaporating too quickly
  3. The inner layer (mucin) is the last part which is produced by cells on the surface of white areas of your eyes – it makes the tears stick to the eye

What causes dry eye?

There are many reasons for dry eye to occur, it’s a much more complex condition than the name suggests but it can be due to these common reasons:

Environmental factors – such as wind, air conditioning, or heat

Block oil glands – this puts the different layers that make up the tear layer out of balance

Medications – some medications have side effects that include dry eye

Hormonal changes – this include menopause and pregnancy

Chronic diseases – such as Sjogren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis and thyroid disease

Age – as your age increases, tear production decreases

What to do

Now that you have an understanding of what makes up tears and what causes your eye to get dry, we need to do something about it so that firstly you don’t feel uncomfortable but secondly, to ensure the eye is functioning in tip-top shape.

There are many ways to diagnose the different types of dry eye, but without getting too in-depth your optometrist will be able to look closely under a microscope or use other tools to figure out which part of the tears are causing the issue and looking at using the correct drops or further treatment to solve the problem.

I’ve been seeing a lot of people try eye drops not designed for treating dry eye, such as contact lens cleaning solutions, saline drops which dry your eye out more, or even some medications used to hide red eyes which only mask the problem rather than fixing the root cause. So it’s important to get to the cause of the problem so you’re able to treat your dry eyes with the right drops.

Shon Prasad
Shon Prasad is an Optometrist who graduated from Queensland University of Technology in 2016 with a Bachelor of Vision Science and Master of Optometry. He also has a Graduate Certificate of Ocular Therapeutics enabling him to prescribe ocular medications. Shon works primarily at OPSM Kawana Waters and OPSM Stafford and has a passion for sharing knowledge and teaching people. He volunteers his spare time being a member of Rotaract Club of Brisbane International and a Justice of the Peace.