In its mild form, dry eye can manifest as occasional discomfort in hot, dry or windy settings. But the chronic form can increase the risk of infection or visual deterioration. It can significantly impair one's quality of life, hampering reading, work, computer use and night driving. "Dry eye is a part of the aging process for all of us," said Laurie Barber, a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
"Dry eye is a complex and progressive disorder that has many possible causes and contributing factors. "If not treated, persistent visual problems may haunt the patient and decrease the ability to complete daily activities," she warned. Doctors generally treat the disorder in three ways: using pharmaceuticals, artificial tears and surgery. One of the most recent pharmaceutical approaches is one that accelerates tear production in people with dry eye caused by inflammation, Barber said.
"Dry eye can be caused by conditions such as lachrymal gland disease that affects tear production, or conditions that decrease corneal sensation, such as LASIK eye surgery, long-term contact lens wear and diabetes," said Jeffrey P. Gilbard, of the Department of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School. "About half of diabetics have dry eye. "If you have symptoms of dry eye, you should go to an eye doctor to find out why," he said.