Skip to Content

Dry Eye

UPMC Content 3

Dry Eye Overview

Dry eye occurs when tears do not keep the eyes wet. Symptoms of dry eyes include a burning feeling, a feeling of a foreign object in the eye, redness, blurred vision, and irritation from contact lenses.

Dry eye can have many different causes, including age-related hormonal changes, eye shape, eye diseases, and poor tear production.

Medications such as birth control pills and antihistamines can worsen dry eye conditions, so it is important to tell your ophthalmologist ab out all of the medications you are taking.

Dry Eye Diagnosis

In order to understand why you are experiencing dry eyes, your eye doctor will analyze your tears. There are three ingredients in all tears: the mucous layer, the aqueous (water) layer, and the oil (lipid) layer. A problem with any of these three parts can result in dry eye.

Your doctor will look at the surface of your eye through a microscope. Most tests for dry eye are noninvasive and involve the use of special dyes that temporarily stain the tears and the surface of the eye.

Dry Eye Treatment

People with dry eye typically rely on artificial tears (eye drops) to relieve their symptoms but they are not as effective as real tears. You can avoid dry eye irritation by using a humidifier to add moisture to the air, applying warm compresses to the eye, and by wearing glasses instead of contact lenses.

New treatments are being developed for dry eye, including:

  • Better artificial tears that stay on the surface of the eye longer but do not cause blurred vision.
  • Tiny silicone plugs inserted into the puncta, the part of the eye that drains tears, and keeps more tears in the eye.
  • Use of oral antibiotics.
  • Eye drops made from the patient’s own blood constituents (plasma).
  • Use of cyclosporine eye drops (such as Restasis).

Learn more about our comprehensive eye services.