The tears that form in your eyes consist of water, oils, and mucus, all which help make the eyes feel comfortable. When the eyes don't produce enough tears it causes a condition called dry eye. To help you better understand this condition, here are the answers to four frequently asked questions about dry eye.

1. What Are the Risk Factors for Dry Eye?

According to a recent National Health and Wellness Survey, about 16.4 million adults in the United States have been diagnosed with dry eye disease. Just over 18 percent of adults diagnosed with dry eye are 75 years and older. Women are more likely than men to get dry eye.

Besides age and gender, other risk factors of dry eye include:

  • Being postmenopausal and on estrogen therapy.
  • Having a diet that is low in omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Taking antihistamines.
  • Undergoing radiation therapy.
  • Having a Vitamin A deficiency.

Certain diseases, such as hepatitis, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, thyroid disorders, and connective tissue disease, also increases the risk of having dry eye.

2. What Are the Symptoms of Dry Eye?

Symptoms for dry eye range from mild to severe. Besides feeling dry, eyes with the condition might feel itchy. Other symptoms of dry eye include feeling like there is something in the eye or a gritty feeling in the eye. Dry eye can also cause blurry vision and sensitivity to light.

3. What Are Ways to Prevent Dry Eye?

The best way to prevent dry eye is to pay attention to what causes your dry eye symptoms. For example, if you notice your eyes become dry when there is air blowing in your face, you will want to avoid direct contact with air conditioners, hair dryers, and car heaters.

Other ways to prevent dry eye include taking frequent breaks when working at a computer or while reading. You should also avoid smoke, wearing protective eyewear while outdoors, and add moisture to the indoor air.

4. What Are Dry Eye Treatment Options?

Thankfully, there are many treatment options available for those who have dry eye. Some of the most common dry eye treatment options include:

  • Artificial tears. This over-the-counter options works well for mild cases of dry eye.
  • Prescription eye drops. Prescription strength eye drops help the eyes to produce natural tears.
  • Punctal plugs. This sterile device gets implanted into the puncta and allows tears to stay on the surface of the eye for longer periods of time.

For cases of dry eye where the meibomian glands do not secrete enough oil, meibomian gland expression is an effective treatment option.