Dry Eye

If you are suffering from dry eye, your eyes do not make enough tears or the tears are of poor quality. Dry eye is probably the most common of all eye problems. Many adults suffer from dry eye, but most people are unaware that this condition exists. Most sufferers are middle-aged or elderly women, but men and young adults can also suffer.

You may have dry, red, burning, gritty or watery eyes which are very sensitive to bright light. In situations where you blink less often, such as when reading a book, watching television, working on a computer or driving, fewer tears are produced and the problem is more noticeable.

The symptoms of dry eye may be caused by other medical conditions, such as allergies affecting your eyes and some types of arthritis. Certain medicines can also lead to dry eye and the symptoms are made worse when the air is very dry, as with air conditioning, or smoky. This can also happen if the tiny drainage channels that your tears pass through become blocked.

Some people with dry eye find that their eyes are constantly watery. This may be confusing when you have been told that your eye symptoms are caused by your eyes being too dry. This is because your tears do not contain the right balance of mucus, water and oil to coat your eyes properly. This causes the surface of your eyes to dry out and feel irritated and your eyes react by producing large amounts of poor quality tears to try to compensate for this.

When in doubt, it is best to have your eyes examined. An eye doctor can confirm your condition or refer you to an eye specialist if necessary.


Any irritant or allergy that affects your eyes needs to be avoided if possible. Whatever the cause of dry eye it will be helpful to put artificial tear drops into your eyes as often as is needed (every hour if necessary) to keep your eyes comfortable. These drops are available with or without a prescription from a pharmacy. Ointments are also available to provide longer lasting or overnight lubrication. If you need to use the drops and ointments frequently (more than four times daily), it is advisable to avoid those containing preservatives that can irritate your eyes.

Treatment of the underlying cause can sometimes improve your symptoms. In more severe cases of dry eye it may be effective to block the tiny drainage channels (known as lachrymal ducts) which drain away the tears. This will help to moisten your eyes. This can be done by an eye specialist using temporary plugs inserted into the ducts or by treatment to block them permanently.

Things you can do to help yourself:

  • Apply artificial tear drops as required
  • Use humidifiers in your home, especially if you have central heating
  • Drink plenty of fluids to keep the body well hydrated
  • Try to blink your eyes often to produce more tears especially when you are concentrating on a task
  • Try to avoid fumes, dust and smoke which can irritate your eyes
  • Try not to rub your eyes as this may make them sore
  • Wear wrap-around sunglasses outdoors to stop the wind drying your eyes too quickly.


Signs, symptoms & indicators of Dry Eye

Symptoms - Head - Eyes/Ocular  

Dry eyes


Irritated eyes

Dry eye frequently makes it feel as though there is something in your eye, like a tiny grain of sand.


Bloodshot eyes

Dry eye may cause your eyes to always look red.


Discharges from eyes

Mucous around your eyes when you wake in the morning can be a symptom of dry eye.


(High) sensitivity to bright light


Itchy eyes

Dry eyes may become itchy, particularly later in the day.

Counter Indicators
Symptoms - Head - Eyes/Ocular  

Not having itchy eyes

Dry eyes may become itchy, particularly later in the day.

Risk factors for Dry Eye


Sjogren's Syndrome

“Dry eye” is a symptom of certain autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and Sjogren’s syndrome.




The Immune System  



Rheumatoid Arthritis

“Dry eye” is a symptom of certain autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and Sjogren’s syndrome.



EFA (Essential Fatty Acid) Type 3 Requirement

The best way to address dry eye is with a solution that will help the body to heal the processes that lead to dry eye. One way to do this is by making sure you are getting enough essential omega-3 fatty acids. It appears that omega-3 helps to enhance the oil and water layers of the tears.

See also the link between Dry Eye and improvement with Fish Oil supplementation.

Symptoms - Head - Eyes/Ocular  

Past episodes of bloodshot eyes

Dry eye may cause your eyes to always look red.

Dry Eye suggests the following may be present


Sjogren's Syndrome

“Dry eye” is a symptom of certain autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and Sjogren’s syndrome.

Recommendations for Dry Eye


Fish Oil / Krill

Komal A. Trivedi, MD, of Harvard’s Schepens Eye Research Institute, and colleagues asked whether fish oil protects from dry eye syndrome. Trivedi’s team analyzed data from 32,470 female health professionals in the huge Women’s Health Study.

They found that women whose diets had the most omega-3 fatty acids, as measured by how much fish they ate, were least likely to have dry eye syndrome. Those whose diets had the most fish oil were less likely to have dry eye syndrome than those whose diets had the least fish oil. [Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology 2003, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., May 4-9, 2003]

Physical Medicine  

Physical Supports

Many patients tire of using eye drops and turn to punctal occlusion, which may provide longer term relief. Punctal occlusion closes the drain that draws away excess fluids from the eyes. The doctor closes the drain with silicone plugs, which keeps most of the fluids from being pumped away. In one study, 85% of patients with dry eyes were able to reduce their need for artificial tears to occasional use.


Topical Applications

Although many people find temporary relief with artificial tear preparations, they don’t provide a cure. The preservatives in many products can aggravate the condition. Always use eye drops without preservatives. These have been shown to enhance corneal healing and improve dry eye problems.


Weak or unproven link
Strong or generally accepted link
Proven definite or direct link
Weakly counter-indicative
Likely to help
Highly recommended



Hypersensitivity caused by exposure to a particular antigen (allergen), resulting in an increased reactivity to that antigen on subsequent exposure, sometimes with harmful immunologic consequences.


Inflammation of a joint, usually accompanied by pain, swelling, and stiffness, and resulting from infection, trauma, degenerative changes, metabolic disturbances, or other causes. It occurs in various forms, such as bacterial arthritis, osteoarthritis, or rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis, the most common form, is characterized by a gradual loss of cartilage and often an overgrowth of bone at the joints.

Autoimmune Disease

One of a large group of diseases in which the immune system turns against the body's own cells, tissues and organs, leading to chronic and often deadly conditions. Examples include multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus, Bright's disease and diabetes.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

A long-term, destructive connective tissue disease that results from the body rejecting its own tissue cells (autoimmune reaction).

Fatty Acids

Chemical chains of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms that are part of a fat (lipid) and are the major component of triglycerides. Depending on the number and arrangement of these atoms, fatty acids are classified as either saturated, polyunsaturated, or monounsaturated. They are nutritional substances found in nature which include cholesterol, prostaglandins, and stearic, palmitic, linoleic, linolenic, eicosapentanoic (EPA), and decohexanoic acids. Important nutritional lipids include lecithin, choline, gamma-linoleic acid, and inositol.

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