Did you know?
Eyes Feel Gritty or Sandy? Might Be Dry Eye
Does it feel like there is sand in your eyes, but you haven’t been to the beach in weeks? You may have a condition called dry eye, which affects nearly 5 million men and women in the U.S. Sometimes people don’t produce enough tears to keep their eyes healthy and comfortable. This is what is known as dry eye.
The eye uses two different methods to produce tears. The eye can produce a lot of tears in response to emotion or an irritant in the eye, when excessive tearing occurs. To maintain normal eye lubrication, the eye makes tears at a slow steady rate. By steadily producing tears, the eye stays moist and comfortable. The tear film consists of three layers:
- An oily layer: this layer forms the outermost surface of the tear film. Its main purpose is to smooth the tear surface and reduce evaporation of tears.
- A watery layer: this middle layer makes up most of what we ordinarily think of as tears. This layer cleanses the eye and washes away foreign particles or irritants.
- A layer of mucus: the inner layer of tears consists of mucus that allows the watery layer to spread evenly over the surface of the eye and helps the eye remain moist. Without mucus, tears would not stick to the eye.
Some people are more likely to have dry eye, especially those who have had Lasik or other refractive surgery, because the cornea may have reduced sensation due to incisions or tissue removal. Contact lens wearers, those who may be sensitive to certain climates- like windy, dry air- and people who take certain over-the counter and prescription medications, are also more likely to develop dry eye.
If you think that you may have dry eye, there are many treatments that can help alleviate the discomfort. Treatments range from over the counter eye drops, to inserting a plug into the tear duct to help preserve your natural tears, to prescription eye drops. Some people find that omega-3 fatty acids, found in food like oily fish and flax seeds or in supplements, help to ease the symptoms of dry eye. Talk with your ophthalmologist to find the right relief for you. For more information, visit geteyesmart.org.