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Dry Eye: Common Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments


WRITTEN BY: Eye Center
Thursday, February 13th, 2014

Tears lubricate the eyes and wash away particles and foreign objects. A healthy tear film on the eye is necessary for good vision. Dry eye is a common condition that occurs when the natural tear film that covers the surface of the eye is insufficient. UPMC Eye Center ophthalmologists Andrew Eller, MD, and Leela Raju, MD, explain more about this common condition.

1.  What causes dry eye? There are a number of causes, but some of the most common ones include:

  • Previous surgeries, such as laser refractive surgery or retinal detachment
  • Wearing contact lenses, especially after many years
  • Dry heat in our homes or air conditioning in the summer
  • Reading intently or staring at a computer
  • Various conditions, such as dementia, Bell’s palsy, Sjogren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, or hyperthyroidism (Grave’s disease)

2.  What are the most common symptoms associated with dry eye?

  • Burning
  • Redness
  • Feeling of sand or dirt in the eye
  • Tearing

3.  If my eyes keep tearing up, can I still have dry eye? Surprisingly, many people with dry eyes complain of tearing. There are three types of tears:

  • Greasy
  • Mucousy
  • Watery

When our tear film is deficient in the greasy and mucousy tears, we compensate with the over population of watery tears.

4.  What are the common treatment options? Some of the more common treatments include:

  • Over the counter eye drops
  • An eye gel or ointment
  • Small plugs  can be placed in the eyelids to increase the tear film

5.  When should you see your eye doctor about dry eye? In most cases dry eye can be managed with over the counter eye drops. However, you should consult your eye doctor when you can no longer tolerate the burning, redness, and pain.

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Eye Center

A recognized leader in the diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases and disorders, the physician’s and staff of the UPMC Eye Center work to improve patients’ quality of life through vision preservation and restoration. We personalize and individualize care for each patient, and our care is always patient-focused. Read More