Maintaining Good Health Even When You're Busy

Burning, Watery Eyes On Your Way Home From Work? You May Have Dry Eye

by Caitlin Obara

If you've recently started experiencing burning and watering eyes, especially when driving home after a long day at the office, you may be wondering what's going on. Could it be something in your car's heating or air conditioning that is causing these symptoms? Could it be the harsh sunlight after being inside under fluorescent lighting all day? More than likely, those things only contribute to the symptoms of dry eye, not cause it. Here's what you need to know about dry eyes and how they can be treated.


When eyes don't produce enough tears or the tears do not have the right consistency, dry eye can occur. It can also happen when tears evaporate too fast. Dry eye can cause any of the following symptoms:

  • your eyes burn or sting
  • it feels like there's sand in your eyes
  • your eyes may be red and painful
  • your eyes might water uncontrollably
  • your eyelids may feel heavy
  • you cannot keep your eyes open, especially in bright light
  • you are unable to focus clearly
  • there may be a discharge that is stringy

When these symptoms are allowed to continue, it could cause ulcers to form on your cornea, which is extremely painful. While rare, there is a slight risk of permanently losing some vision from prolonged and/or severe dry eye.

Medical Conditions & Medications

It's important to understand that certain medical conditions can cause the condition, and some medication can also lead to dry eye, such as ACE inhibitors, opiates, antidepressants, acne medication, antihistamine, and birth control pills. If you have a diagnosed medical condition, speak with your primary care physician or an eye doctor to determine if your medical condition and/or medication could be the cause. Rosacea, Blepharitis, Sjorgen's syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and vascular type Ehlers-Danlos syndrome are just several of the medical conditions that can cause dry eye. It can also be caused by menopause or other hormonal changes.

Caused by Habits

Some habits can cause this painful condition. Not blinking enough while you sit focused on a computer screen can cause dry eye. Smoke from cigarettes can cause tears to evaporate from your eyes too quickly. Dry air can also cause rapid evaporation of tears, as can certain environmental conditions in workplaces, such as fumes from chemicals or welding. It's important to note that one of the key habitual things that can lead to dry eye is not drinking enough water. Dehydration can easily result in dry eye, especially if you are dehydrated more often than you are adequately hydrated.

Schirmer's Test

Fortunately, a test was developed to help eye doctors determine whether someone is producing an adequate amount of tears or not. Abnormal test results show if someone is producing too little or too many tears. Schirmer's test uses test strips that are placed underneath each eye lid to gauge the tear production. Of course, before beginning this test, your eye doctor will put some eye drops in each eye to numb them.

The eye drops will temporarily sting, but your eyes will become numb so you won't feel the test strips under your eye lids. Once your eyes are numb and the test strips are in place, you will be instructed to keep your eyes closed for roughly five minutes. When completed, the eye doctor will remove the test strips and measure the amount of moisture on them. As an alternative, a special thread may be used instead of a strip of the special paper.

Treatment Options

Of course, treatment will largely depend on what's causing your dry eye condition. Changing your habits is a good place to start if that is what has led to your dry eye condition. There are lubricating eye drops in prescription strength that may help increase moisture in your eyes. There are several types of plugs that can be used to plug the ducts that drain tears to your nasal cavity. If the plugs either do not work or you are unable to tolerate them, surgery to close the ducts may be recommended.

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