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Dry eye syndrome is characterized by a lack of sufficient lubrication and moisture in the eye. Symptoms can range from slight to constant irritation to ocular inflammation of the visible tissue of the eye. Dry eye syndrome is more common in women, possibly because of hormonal changes.

Sometimes, those who receive eyelid surgery -- blepharoplasty -- to improve the appearance of the surrounding eye tissues, complain about dry eyes if immediately after the procedure their eyelids do not fully close. (Source: All About Vision)

Symptoms and Diagnosis: Symptoms of dry eye syndrome include persistent dryness, itchiness, redness and a burning sensation in the eyes. It can also be accompanied with the feeling that a foreign object is in the eye. A doctor can diagnose dry eye syndrome by patient-reported symptoms or by conducting a Schirmer test to measure the amount of tears the eye produces.

The test involves placing a thin strip of filter paper at the edge of the eye. Fluorescein eye drops containing a special dye can also be used to determine tear production. When viewed under a special light, a doctor can see how effective the eye is at washing the dye out. (Source: All About Vision and Eye Care

Causes: Tears are essential for eye health; they wash the eye clean of dust and other debris and also kill microorganisms that can live in the eye. Those who suffer from dry eye syndrome do not produce enough tears, or the chemical composition of their tears causes them to evaporate too quickly. Dry eye syndrome can occur due to aging, especially during menopause. It occurs most often in people over age 40. It can also occur as a side effect of certain medications, from smoking or from living in a dry, dusty or windy climate.

The top five cities in the United States pinpointed as dry eye hot spots include: Las Vegas, Nevada; Lubbock, Texas; El Paso, Texas; Midland/Odessa, Texas; and Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas. Air conditioning, dry heating systems, and even staring at a computer screen all day are also dry eye culprits. Wearing contact lenses long-term can also result in a vicious dry eye cycle. Wearers feel uncomfortable when their eyes start to dry out, so they rub them. However, instead of relieving the dryness, they add it. (Source: All About Vision and National Women's Health Resource Center)

Treatment: Artificial tears can be prescribed to lubricate and relieve the dry, scratchy feeling. However, doctors advise not to confuse artificial tears with eye drops that "get the red out." The vasoconstrictors in those eye drops reduce redness temporarily but don't treat the cause of dryness. Another option for dryness is Restasis eye drops, which can actually help your eyes produce tears. To treat the environmental causes of dryness, doctors recommend wearing sunglasses when outdoors. Indoor air cleaners and humidifiers may also be beneficial. Temporary or permanent silicone plugs can also be placed in the tear ducts to prevent tears from draining as quickly.

The procedure is painless, and the plugs are not normally felt by the patient. Sometimes, however, plugs are not strong enough, and patients require surgery to permanently close their tear ducts. Other times, doctors recommend special nutritional supplements, such as essential fatty acids, to alleviate dry eyes. Eating cold-water fish that contain Omega-3 fatty acids -- sardines, cod, herring, and salmon -- can also be beneficial. Drinking water to relieve mild dehydration can also sometimes be a simple solution to dry eyes. (Source: All About Vision)

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