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    Dry eyes

    Tearing - decreased; Eyes - dry

    Dry eyes are caused by a lack of tears. Tears are necessary for the normal lubrication of your eyes and to wash away particles and foreign bodies.

    Considerations

    If you have dry eyes, you will feel a burning, scratching, or stinging sensation. You may also have strained or tired eyes after reading, even for short periods of time. If you wear contacts, they will likely feel uncomfortable. Having dry eyes for a while can lead to tiny abrasions on the surface of your eyes.

    Causes

    Common causes of dry eyes include:

    • Aging
    • Dry environment or workplace (wind, air conditioning)
    • Sun exposure
    • Smoking or second-hand smoke exposure
    • Cold or allergy medicines
    • An eye injury or other problem with your eyes or eyelids (like a drooping eyelid or bulging eyes)
    • Sjogren's syndrome -- includes dry eyes, mouth, and mucus membranes, and often rheumatoid arthritis or other joint disorder
    • Previous eye surgery

    Home Care

    Try artificial tears, available as either drops or ointment. Ointments last longer, but are thicker and can cause blurry vision for a short while after you place them in the eye.

    • Don't smoke. Avoid second-hand smoke, direct wind, and air conditioning.
    • Use a humidifier, especially in the winter.
    • If possible, stop using allergy and cold medicines that may be causing your symptoms.
    • Purposefully blink more often. Rest your eyes.

    When to Contact a Medical Professional

    Call your health care provider if:

    • You have red or painful eyes.
    • You have flaking, discharge, or a lesion on your eye or eyelid.
    • You have had trauma to your eye, or you have a bulging eye or a drooping eyelid.
    • You have joint pain, swelling, or stiffness.
    • You also have a dry mouth.
    • Your dry eyes do not respond to self-care measures within a few days.

    What to Expect at Your Office Visit

    Your health care provider will take a medical history and perform a physical examination, including a careful eye examination.

    To help better understand your dry eyes, your health care provider may ask the following:

    • How long have you had dry eyes? Does it involve one or both eyes?
    • Do you have it all of the time or does it only occur at certain times, with certain activities, or in certain places?
    • Does the dryness seem related to wind, dust, chemicals, sun, or light exposure?
    • Does it affect your vision?
    • Does it cause pain?
    • Do your eyelids close easily?
    • Have you noticed any drainage from your eyes?
    • Does anything make your dry eyes worse?
    • Does anything make your dry eyes better?
    • Have you tried artificial tears? Do they help?
    • Are you taking any medications? Which ones?
    • Have you had surgery or an injury to your eyes or nose?
    • Do you have allergies?
    • Have you been using any new cosmetics?
    • Do you have any other symptoms like dry mouth or joint discomfort?

    Your health care provider may perform tearing tests that can help diagnose dry eyes. Artificial tears may be prescribed.

    References

    Tu EY, Rheinstrom S. Dry eye. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 3rd ed. St. Louis, MO: Mosby Elsevier;2008:chap 4.

    Carsons S. Sjögren's syndrome. In: Firestein GS, Budd RC, Harris ED Jr., et al, eds. Kelley's Textbook of Rheumatology. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2008:chap 69.

    Yanoff M, Cameron D. Diseases of the visual system. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 431.

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    • Lacrimal gland

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      • Lacrimal gland

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      A Closer Look

        Self Care

          Tests for Dry eyes

          Review Date: 10/22/2011

          Reviewed By: Linda Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

          The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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