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

In this article we cover not only what this condition is, but its causes, as well as coping with dry eye.

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, in your eye, consists of three important layers for proper function. These layers are:

  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. Some of the most common reasons for dry eye to occur include:

  • Environmental factors – such as wind, air conditioning, or heat.
  • Blocked 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

Understanding what makes up tears and causes your eye to get dry is the first step. Your next step is doing something about it so that most importantly you don’t feel uncomfortable but also, to ensure the eye is functioning in tip-top shape.

There are many ways to diagnose the different types of dry eye. 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.

It’s common for people to 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. These only mask the problem rather than fixing the root cause. It’s important to get to the cause of the problem so you’re able to treat your dry eyes with the right drops.


Are you interested in finding out more about your eye and the importance of regular eye tests? Learn more in our eye facts blog.

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.
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