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McFarland Eyecare shows how they test for dry eyes

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Dry eyes is a common condition that occurs when your tears aren't able to provide adequate lubrication for your eyes. Tears can be inadequate for many reasons.

Dry eyes feel uncomfortable. If you have dry eyes, your eyes may sting or burn. You may experience dry eyes in certain situations, such as on an airplane, in an air-conditioned room, while riding a bike or after looking at a computer screen for a few hours.

Symptoms

Signs of a gritty feeling, feeling like there’s something in your eye

Itching, Redness

Blurry vision, Light sensitivity

Dry eyes occur when you're unable to produce enough tears. Your tears are a complex mixture of water, fatty oils and mucus. This mixture helps make the surface of your eyes smooth and clear, and it helps protect your eyes from infection. For some people, the cause of dry eyes is decreased tear production.

Common causes:

Aging

Certain medical conditions: diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma, Sjogren's syndrome, thyroid disorders and vitamin A deficiency

Certain medications, antihistamines, decongestants, hormone replacement therapy, antidepressants, and drugs for high blood pressure, acne, birth control and Parkinson's disease

Tear gland damage from inflammation or radiation

Prevention

If you experience dry eyes, pay attention to the situations that are most likely to cause your symptoms. Then find ways to avoid those situations in order to prevent your dry eyes symptoms. For instance:

Avoid air blowing in your eyes.

Add moisture to the air.

Consider wearing wraparound sunglasses or other protective eyewear.

Take eye breaks during long tasks.

Be aware of your environment.

Position your computer screen below eye level.

Stop smoking and avoid smoke.

Use artificial tears regularly.

Diagnosis

Tests and procedures that may be used to determine the cause of your dry eyes include:

A comprehensive eye exam.

Measuring the volume of your tears.

Determining the quality of your tears

Treatment

For most people with occasional or mild dry eye symptoms, it's enough to regularly use over-the-counter eyedrops (artificial tears). If your symptoms are persistent and more serious, you have other options. What you do depends on what's causing your dry eyes.

Your doctor might opt to close the punctum, or duct that drains tears from your eye. He might start with a punctal plug designed to dissolve over time. Based on how it works, he'll know whether permanent plugs will help.

Treating the underlying cause of dry eyes

In some cases, treating an underlying health issue can help clear up the signs and symptoms of dry eyes. For instance, if a medication is causing your dry eyes, your doctor may recommend a different medication that doesn't cause that side effect. If you have an eyelid condition, such as out-turning lids (ectropion), your doctor may refer you to an eye surgeon who specializes in plastic surgery of the eyelids (oculoplastic surgeon). Or if you have rheumatoid arthritis, your doctor may refer you to a rheumatologist.

Medications: Prescription medications used to treat dry eyes include:

Drugs to reduce eyelid inflammation.

Eyedrops to control cornea inflammation.

Eye inserts that work like artificial tears.

Tear-stimulating drugs.

Eyedrops made from your own blood.

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