When you can’t shed enough tears
Dry eye syndrome, or dry eye disease, is a common condition that occurs when the eyes don’t make enough tears, or the tears evaporate too quickly.
This leads to the eyes drying out and becoming red, swollen and irritated.
Dry eye syndrome is also known as kerato-conjunctivitis sicca, or simply “dry eyes”.
The symptoms are mild for most people, although more severe cases can be painful and lead to complications.
Symptoms usually affect both eyes and often include feelings of dryness, grittiness or soreness that get worse throughout the day, burning and red eyes, eyelids that stick together when you wake up and/or temporarily blurred vision, which usually improves when you blink.
Some people may also have episodes of watering eyes, which can occur if the eye tries to relieve the irritation by producing more tears.
When to seek medical advice
See your high-street optician (optometrist) if you have persistent but mild symptoms of dry eye syndrome.
They can examine you to check if the problem is caused by an underlying condition, or they may refer you to an eye specialist.
Contact your optometrist or GP immediately if you have any severe symptoms. If this isn’t possible, visit your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department.
Although the condition may affect people of any age, your chances of developing dry eye syndrome increase as you grow older.
It’s estimated up to one in every three people over the age of 65 experiences problems with dry eyes.
Although dry eye syndrome may be uncomfortable, it doesn’t usually cause any serious problems.