(ARA) - Summer weather may bring warmer, humid air, but millions of Americans still experience discomfort associated with dry eye syndrome. Dry eye is a condition where tears lack sufficient moisture and lubrication, which is necessary to maintain good eye health and clear vision. Tears not only wash away dust, but also soothe the eyes, provide oxygen and nutrients to the cornea and help defend against eye infections by removing bacteria.
The frequency and severity of dry eye varies but may include irritated or gritty eyes, redness, burning, a feeling that something is in your eyes, blurred vision and even excessive watering. This condition has a multitude of causes but generally stems from the following factors:
* Age: As Americans age, eyes naturally become drier. Typically, people older than 65 experience some dry eye symptoms.
* Gender: Women are more likely to develop dry eye with hormonal changes during pregnancy, while using oral contraceptives and following menopause.
* Medications: Decongestants, antihistamines and antidepressants are among numerous medications that can reduce tear production.
* Medical conditions: Health issues associated with arthritis, diabetes, Sjogren's syndrome and thyroid problems can produce dry eye symptoms.
* Environment: Dry climates and exposure to wind and smoke may trigger dry eye.
* Eyewear/surgery: Contact lenses may cause dry eye or make eyes less comfortable if they are dry, and eye surgery may lead to a temporary decrease in tear production.
* Cosmetics: When the lid margin is coated with heavy makeup, it can block the openings of the oily glands, which help lubricate the eye.
Treatment for dry eye syndrome varies depending on the severity. Several new studies have confirmed the correlation between fatty acids and an improvement in dry eye syndrome. Salmon, tuna, herring, mackerel and other cold-water fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce inflammation, enhance tear production and support the eye's oily outer layer, as well as provide health benefits for your cardiovascular, immune and nervous systems.
Additionally, some people can use artificial tears or ointments that simulate the action of tears. There are also oral capsules that can maintain tear production and guard against future tear loss. The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends consulting an eye doctor to diagnose the condition and discuss proper treatment. The AOA also recommends adults have yearly eye exams. For additional information on how best to cope with dry eyes, visit www.AOA.org.