Ask an Eye M.D. Answer Archive
My eyes always seem to be dry these days. I never had this problem before, but they always seem scratchy and irritated. I'm a 52-year-old woman in otherwise normal health. Do you know what might be the cause of this problem?
Normally, the eye constantly bathes itself in tears. By producing tears at slow and steady rates, the eye stays moist and comfortable. Sometimes people do not produce enough tears or the appropriate quality of tears to keep their eyes healthy and comfortable. The condition is called dry eye. Tear production normally decreases as we age. Although dry eye can occur in both men and women at any age, women are most often affected. This is especially true after menopause. A person with dry eye should avoid anything that may cause dryness, such as an overly warm room, hair dryers or wind. Smoking is especially bothersome. The usual symptoms of dry eye include:
- Stinging or burning eyes
- Stringy mucus in or around the eyes
- Excessive eye irritation from smoke or wind
- Excess tearing
- Discomfort when wearing contact lenses
If you are suffering from any of these symptoms, you should see an Eye M.D., who can talk to you about potential treatments to relieve some of these symptoms.
Answered by: Ruth Williams, MD
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