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Tears are Not Just for Crying

Did you know that every time you blink, your eyes moisturize themselves?   With every blink, tears spread across the front surface of the eye, known as the cornea.   Just like a motor needs lubrication to keep the gears moving smoothly, the eye needs proper lubrication to keep it functioning well.  Throughout the day, your tears provide lubrication to reduce the risk of eye infection, wash away foreign matter in the eye and keep the surface of the eyes smooth and clear.   To keep tears from pooling in your eyes, excess tears flow into tiny drainage ducts in the inner corners of the eyelids, and drain into the sinuses. Pretty cool, right?

Sometimes the eyes don’t lubricate properly, creating a condition known as Dry Eye Syndrome.

Dry Eye can occur when tear production and drainage are not in balance.  Typical symptoms include:

  • Redness and irritation
  • Scratching, burning and pain in the eye
  • Itching or a foreign body sensation
  • Increased sensitivity to bright light
  • Excessive tearing/watering
  • Stringy mucous in the eye
  • Blurry vision

Factors that contribute to Dry Eye are due to any number of factors such as:

  • Advancing age
  • Certain medications (antihistamines, decongestants, blood pressure medications, and antidepressants)
  • Hormonal changes in women (pregnancy, menopause, oral contraceptives)
  • Environmental conditions (exposure to smoke, wind, dry climates)
  • Staring at a computer screen without blinking regularly (very common in the COVID year of online education)
  • Overwear of contact lenses
  • Use of a fan or C-PAP device, blowing air throughout the night

Advanced Dry Eye can damage the front surface of the eye and impair vision.

Dry Eye is very common in Eastern Kentucky.  A visit to the Optometrist can help diagnose and treat chronic Dry Eye, with the goal of restoring your tear film, keeping your eyes healthy, comfortable and seeing their best.

Some quick tips to alleviate Dry Eye discomfort now:

  • Use OTC ocular lubricants such as Systane, Refresh or Relieve as needed, up to 4 times/day.
  • Place a warm, moist washcloth over the eyes for about 10 minutes 1-2 times/day.
  • When on the computer, use the 20/20/20 rule: every 20 minutes, refocus your eyes at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds and BLINK BLINK BLINK.