4 Myths About Dry Eyes

Get the facts—and get real relief!

Health Monitor Staff
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Do your eyes feel so dry they sometimes sting? Or do you have symptoms like redness, itchiness or a gritty feeling—but you ignore it? Although having dry eyes may sound harmless, it can actually be a chronic disease that leads to more serious problems. Read on for the facts!

Myth 1: Everyone gets dry eyes; it’s not a big deal.
Fact: While most of us feel eye dryness from time to time—while flying in a dry airplane cabin, for example—that gritty eye sensation should not be an everyday occurrence. “There’s a spectrum of dryness,” says Seattle-based ophthalmologist Richard Bensinger, MD, a spokesman for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “If it becomes severe enough, it can actually cause damage to the eye.” Without a proper tear film, things like dust and pollen can stick to the eye, causing irritation, inflammation and blurry vision. Unchecked, chronic dry eye can increase the risk of eye infection and scarring on the cornea. The good news? “As long as there’s no scarring, it’s reversible with treatment,” says Dr. Bensinger. 

Myth 2: Dry air is the cause.
Fact: While low humidity can dry out eyes, it’s not the cause of chronic dry eye; it merely aggravates the condition, explains Houston-based ophthalmologist Stephen Pflugfelder, MD. When eye dryness and irritation happen often, it’s usually because your eyes don’t produce enough tears, or the tears you produce evaporate quickly. What triggers this varies—medication, laser eye surgery or even just normal aging.

Myth 3: Watery eyes can’t be dry.
Fact: Actually, tearing is a symptom! “When eyes are too dry, a signal goes out to make more tears,” says Dr. Bensinger. “The redness, itchiness—you might not recognize it as dryness, but your eye does.”

Myth 4: Drops that “get the red out” can help.
Fact: No! “Those drops are drying,” says Dr. Bensinger. “The medication that gets rid of redness will also slow down tear production. You want to use lubricating or tear replacement drops.” If over-the-counter drops don’t help, or you’re applying them more frequently, schedule an eye exam. Your doctor can offer other options, including prescription drops that actually foster the eyes’ ability to produce tears.

July 2013