Dry eye can be aggravated by a number of external factors such as hot, dry or windy environments, high altitudes, heating, air conditioning, and smoke. Many people also find that their eyes become irritated when reading, working on a computer, or wearing contact lenses. Those taking certain medications for thyroid conditions, vitamin A deficiency, depression, or menopause may also experience dry eye. Anyone using artificial tears several times a day or on a regular basis should see an eye care professional about their symptoms. Left untreated, episodic dry eye can progress to a chronic condition.
Chronic dry eye occurs when eyes do not produce the right quantity or quality of tears. Women are more frequently affected than men, and chronic dry eye is often caused by hormonal changes due to aging and menopause or medical conditions — such as Parkinson's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, rosacea, sarcoidosis and Sjögren's syndrome. Symptoms of chronic dry eye can vary greatly from one person to the next, often fluctuating throughout the day, usually becoming worse later in the day.
Symptoms may include:
- sensitivity to light
- blurred vision
- foreign body sensation
- excessive tearing
Chronic dry eye can be a progressive disease that, if left untreated, can lead to increased risk of infection or further vision problems.