Few people ever think about their tears until one day they don’t have enough tears to keep their eyes healthy and they end up with dry eyes. Without sufficient tears, your eyes burn, feel scratchy, and they’re at risk for serious complications. The doctors at the Eye Care Center of Kauai, in Lihue, Hawaii, have the expertise needed to determine if you have an underlying health condition, and to heal your dry eyes.

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What is dry eye?

Dry eye is a problem with natural tears, either the eye doesn’t produce enough tears, they’re not the right consistency, or they evaporate too quickly. This is a problem because tears form a protective film over the eye, keeping it moist and flushing out dust and dirt. Tears also contain proteins and nutrients that are essential for keeping the eye healthy and preventing infection.

Dry eye can make it hard to read or use electronics and make it painful to wear contact lenses. Dry environments are especially likely to aggravate your eyes if you already have dry eyes. Other symptoms include:

  • Eyes sting or burn
  • Scratchy, gritty feeling: Like something is in your eye
  • Red, irritated eyes
  • Stringy discharge from the eye
  • Episodes of blurred vision
  • Episodes of excess tears following very dry eye periods

What causes dry eye?

Dry eye is more likely to occur as you get older, but it can develop at any age. Finding a precise cause can be a challenge because there are many possible reasons why you might develop dry eye.

Medical conditions
Diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disorders, vitamin A deficiency, lupus, Sjogren’s syndrome, and scleroderma are just a few of the health conditions that can cause dry eye.

A long list of medications include dry eye as one of their side effects, including antihistamines, decongestants, antidepressants, hormone replacement therapy, oral contraceptives, and drugs to treat high blood pressure, acne and Parkinson’s disease.

Tear gland damage
Inflammation or radiation therapy to the head or neck can damage the glands that make tears.

How is dry eye treated?

Early treatment for dry eye is important to prevent complications that arise when it goes untreated, such as ulcers, scars on the cornea and some loss of vision. When you visit the Eye Care Center of Kauai, your doctor will determine whether a health condition or medications are causing the problem. Treating the underlying condition may cure your dry eyes.

The primary treatment for dry eye is artificial tears, but a variety of other options are available. Lubricating ointments, topical or oral anti-inflammatory medications, and prescription medication to increase tear production are all possible treatments. Finally, tiny plugs can be inserted into your tear ducts to prevent tears from draining out of the eyes.