Normally, the eye constantly bathes itself in tears. Sometimes people do not produce enough tears or the appropriate quality of tears to keep their eyes healthy and comfortable. This condition is known as dry eye. The usual symptoms include: stinging or burning eyes; scratchiness; stringy mucus in or around the eyes; excessive eye irritation from smoke or wind; excess tearing; discomfort when wearing contact lenses.
An ophthalmologist is usually able to diagnose dry eye by examining the eyes. Sometimes tests that measure tear production are necessary. Dry eye may be treated using eye drops called artificial tears, which are similar to human tears. They lubricate the eyes and help maintain moisture.
For chronic dry eye, there is a prescription drop called Restasis®, which helps increase your eye’s natural ability to produce tears. Your ophthalmologist may also use punctual plugs to close the openings to your tear ducts either temporarily or permanently. This closure conserves your own tears and makes artificial tears last longer.