Understanding Dry Eye

The eye has a tear film that coats the outer layer of the eye. This tear film is very important for the lubrication and comfort of the eye as well as for the clarity of vision. As we age, this protective tear film diminishes, and leaves the eye more exposed to the drying effects of the air, wind and dust. In many people the dryness is worse in the afternoon and evening.

Dry eye is usually not caused by a lack of tear production. In fact, the eye can still make so many tears that many patients complain of wet eyes and tearing with this condition. That's because the dryness causes the eye to produce more tears in an effort to replace the tear film. Dry eye is probably the most common problem seen in the eye doctor's office.


Dry eye symptoms include burning, stinging or a gritty sensation that may come and go depending on many factors. Itching, tearing and light sensitivity may also occur.

Blinking is very important for the maintenance of the tear film. When performing such activities as reading or working on a computer, we blink less frequently. This aggravates the symptoms of dry eyes. Sometimes environmental factors can also aggravate dry eye symptoms. Dry weather, either in hot or cold temperatures, robs the eye of needed lubricants. Cigarette smoke, fumes, dust and airborne particles are common irritants. For most patients, this condition is not associated with a systemic disease.