Ask an Eye M.D. Answer Archive

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Question:
When I close my eyes, usually within an hour they feel like I have applied glue to my eyes. I have to apply a warm washcloth to my eyes to open them. I have applied drops, but this doesn't help. What could be causing this and how is it treated?  

Answer:
The symptom of "gluey" eyelids is most likely from a dry eye syndrome. As we age, our tear film tends to decrease and this is true a bit more in women than men. Some diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis as well as other autoimmune conditions are often associated with dry eye too. This may be asymptomatic for many or it may be quite bothersome. This is best treated with tear replacement by using over-the-counter agents such as artificial tear replacement solutions. These can be found in drugstores and large supermarkets, among others. These tear replacement agents can be very thin and watery, much like your natural tears, or more viscous to varying degrees. Some of the artificial tear ointments may be as thick as honey (but don't put honey in your eyes). The tear replacements should help most with this problem but sometimes other treatments are  necessary.  

One of the most common treatments for patients with dry eye is to block the drainage tubes that drain tears away from the eyes. Our eyes make tears in several areas on the eye, but the main gland is under the upper outer lid. The tears drain across the eye and out of the eye on the inner aspects of the lids near the nose. Normally, the tears drain into the back of the nasal cavity. That explains why you get a "stuffy" nose when you cry. Those tear drainage tubes near the nose, one in the lower lid and one in the upper lid of each eye, can be temporarily or permanently blocked to help retain tears on the surface of the eye. 

Your symptoms may be caused by something else but dry eye is most likely. Your Eye M.D. or ophthalmologist can help diagnose your condition and help select the proper tear replacement agent if dry eye is the culprit. There are great strides being made by investigators in the understanding of dry eye, as well as its causes and treatments. Your Eye M.D. can help you with other treatments as mentioned above if these are needed.

Answered by: Ivan Schwab, MD Dr. Ivan Schwab

Categories: Eye Diseases; Eye Conditions

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Answered: Apr 25, 2012

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