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Dry Eye

Our eye doctors can give you relief from dry eye

What Is Dry Eye?

When you blink, a film of tears spreads over the eye, making the surface of the eye smooth and clear. Without this tear film, good vision would not be possible.

Sometimes people don’t produce enough tears or the right quality of tears to keep their eyes healthy and comfortable. This condition is known as dry eye.

What Is the Eye’s Tear Film Like?

The tear film consists of three layers:
  • An oily layer
  • A watery layer
  • A layer of mucus

Each layer has its own purpose. The oily layer, produced by the meibomian glands, forms the outermost surface of the tear film. Its main purpose is to smooth the tear surface and reduce evaporation of tears.

The middle watery layer makes up most of what we ordinarily think of as tears. This layer, produced by the lacrimal glands in the eyelids, cleanses the eye and washes away foreign particles or irritants.

The inner layer consists of mucus produced by the conjunctiva. Mucus allows the watery layer to spread evenly over the surface of the eye and helps the eye remain moist. Without mucus, tears would not stick to the eye.

How Are Tears Produced?

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

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

Common Dry Eye Symptoms

As you can tell by the name, this condition causes your eyes to feel dry and scratchy. They may be red and may be uncomfortable, especially when contacts are worn. But another common symptom of dry eye is excessive tearing.

It may not sound logical that dry eye would cause excess tearing, but think of it as the 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. The excess tears then overflow from your eye.

What Is the Treatment for Dry Eye?

Artificial tears are the most popular dry eye treatment. These can be purchased over-the-counter, although you should talk about your condition with your eye doctor. If artificial tears don’t give you the lasting relief that you need, prescription eye drops may be a good next step. If these treatments don’t work, your ophthalmologist may recommend a minimally-invasive procedure that gives longer-lasting results.
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