Dry eye syndrome is caused by a chronic lack of lubrication of the ocular surface, with consequent constant inflammation and irritation of the eye tissues.
Dry eye syndrome is characterized by symptoms such as persistent dryness, itchy, red eye and burning sensation, associated with continued sensation of presence of a foreign body in the eye.
Although it seems contradictory, dry eye syndrome can also cause excessive lacrimation. This happens because the dryness of the ocular surface can overstimulate the production of the aqueous component as a protective mechanism. Dry eye syndrome is often considered by the patient a trivial and unimportant problem, but it should not be underestimated.
Tears have the task of washing away the dust and detritus that deposit on the ocular surface and always keep the eye wet; in their chemical composition there are also important enzymes, which ensure an important defence against microorganisms. The primary cause is often a dysfunction of the meibomian glands, i.e. the glands that produce tears, but also old age (especially menopause in women), certain medications (antihistamines, antidepressants, drugs to treat Parkinson's disease and birth control pills) can cause dry eye syndrome.
Dry eye can also be the warning of a systemic disease, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis or Sjögren's syndrome.
Further causes of dry eye can be a prolonged stay in an air conditioned environment, contact lenses, diseases that prevent the eyelids to close completely.
Currently, on the market there is a wide range of eye drops that act as tear substitutes (artificial tears), but it is always good to rely on the ophthalmologist’s advice for the choice of one in particular, since the chemical composition of each artificial tear varies in the both in quantity and type of molecule.
If artificial tears do not sufficiently solve the problem, then it is still possible to have recourse to a simple surgical procedure that involves inserting two "tiny plugs" (punctum plugs) into the lower lacrimal points (puncta) so as to cause the scarce tears produced in ocular surface to remain for a longer time.