If your eyes are constantly itchy or dry, you may have dry eye syndrome, which affects many millions of Americans. Dry eye syndrome is caused by a lack of, or poor quality of, tears. Tears lubricate the outer layer of the eye called the cornea. If the tears are not adequate or are not composed of a proper balance of mucous, water, and oil, the eye becomes irritated.
Dry eye syndrome leads to a number of symptoms, including itchiness, irritation, burning, excessive tearing, redness, blurred vision that improves with blinking, and discomfort after long periods of watching television, using a computer, or reading.
There are many factors that can contribute to dry eye syndrome. These include dry, hot, or windy climates; high altitudes; air-conditioned rooms; and cigarette smoke. Contact lens wearers, people with abnormally dry skin, and the elderly are more likely to develop dry eye syndrome. You may also be more at risk if you take certain medications, have a thyroid condition, a vitamin-A deficiency, Parkinson’s or Sjorgen’s disease, or if you are a woman going through menopause.