Tears serve to lubricate the eye and they are produced around the clock, but when insufficient moisture is produced, stinging, burning, scratchiness and other symptoms are experienced and may be referred to as dry eye, keratitis sicca, keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS) or xerophthalmia.
About 10 million Americans suffer from dry eye syndrome. Most of these cases result from normal aging of the glands in the eye, but dry eye can occur at any age. People suffering from allergies and those wearing contact lenses have greater risk of developing dry eye.
Dry eye cannot be cured, but your eyes’ sensitivity can be lessened and measures taken so your eyes remain healthy. The most frequent method of treatment is the use of artificial tears or tear substitutes. For more severe dry eye, ointment can be used, typically at bedtime. In some cases, small plugs may be inserted in the corner of the eyelids to slow drainage and loss of tears.
To keep dry eye symptoms in check, you and your doctor need to work together. Follow instructions carefully. If you have increased dryness or redness that is not relieved by the prescribed treatment, let your doctor know as soon as possible.