Dry Eyes

The conjunctiva is what is commonly call the “white of the eye”, but actually it is a thin tissue membrane covering the white portion of the eye (the sclera). Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva. You may have heard of this as “pink eye”.

Conjunctivitis has many causes including: bacterial infections; viral infections; allergies; and environmental irritants such as smoke and chemical fumes. The eyes normal reaction to this is to increase blood flow to the area that creates the red appearance.

If the amount of discharge from the eye is great or if pus is present, the infection may be acute (intense). Yet, some infections are chronic (long-lasting) and produce very little symptoms. You may experience little or no discharge and may only notice crusting of the eye lashes in the morning in addition to the redness. Prompt consultation with your ophthalmologist is advised for acute or chronic conjunctivitis.

Tear fluids are very important to eye health. They distribute three natural lubricants that protect eye tissue. An individual continually experiencing irritated eyes may be suffering from dry eyes. Over thirty million Americans suffer from this condition.

Ironically, dry eyes often results in excessive watering of the affected eye. The excess watering is a reaction to irritation. While the eyes may be wet, the fluid lacks one or more of the necessary natural lubricants. If left untreated, serious damage to the eye tissues may result causing a loss of vision.

Dry eyes may be caused by: a disruption in the normal blinking reflex; medications like antihistamines; environmental factors such as low humidity and wind; chemical or thermal burns; and some health problems such as arthritis. Treatments vary according to the cause. Common treatments include the use of eye drops and ointments especially formulated to simulate the eye’s naturally occurring lubricants. Individuals living in climates with low humidity may benefit from an indoor humidifier.