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By Judith Whitehead

Dry eyes are one of the most common eye ailments among the general population. They can cause many symptoms that are annoying to people and often go untreated because the symptoms can give a mixed message to many.

Some of the more common complaints consist of itching, burning, watery and blurry vision. The eye needs a healthy and hydrated cornea to produce clear vision.

If the eye doctor suspects dry eye, he or she may perform a five-minute office procedure, called a Schrimer’s test, which will measure the tear flow. There are also some easy ways to test for dry eye in the office. When doing an initial history on the patient, the doctor may ask if the patient has dry mouth, as well.

There are many ways to treat dry eye, starting with a simple moisturizing tear that can be purchased over the counter and instilled several times a day. Tears come in many degrees of thickness, depending on how severe the dryness. They range from a watery tear drop to a thicker gel drop. Ointments tend to blur the vision and are used during the day. In more extreme cases, a physician may prescribe Restasis (cyclosporine ophthalmic emulsion), which will restore the balance of the tear film and help the body produce a better quality tear. Restasis is not meant to replace an over-the-counter artificial tear but in most cases to be used in addition to tears.

Dry eyes, in addition to causing blurry vision, can make the eye more susceptible to infections and an eye that is constantly dry can cause permanent damage to the cornea, as well.

Dry eyes are not to be taken lightly; if you have irritated, red, watery, burning eyes that are bothersome, don’t delay in getting them addressed. It may save your vision.

Judith Whitehead, of East Amherst, is a certified ophthalmic technician.