Dry eye disease is a very common problem, especially in northern Minnesota. The northern and northeastern states have a higher incidence of rosacea, which is a cause of dry eye disease for many people. The winter air outside and the forced heat inside make our 9 months of winter the perfect storm for dry eye.
One of the earliest signs of dry eye disease is watery eyes! The surface of the eye gets “over-dry”, causing the surface cells of the cornea and conjunctive to slough off. These open areas are like a scrape or scratch on the skin. This damaged area can cause a burning or scratchy feeling. The nerves in the cornea send a signal to the lacrimal gland to water. But, if the surface is very dry the lacrimal gland produces a different type of tear, a “reflex tear”. This tear is not the same quality as our normal tear film, and doesn’t really help the dry patches on the front of the eye to heal. This cycle continues, the cornea and conjunctiva get drier, more of the surface tissue comes off- and dry eye disease is born.
The good news is, dry eye disease is manageable. If the only issue you’re having is watery eyes, there are some simple ways to prevent your dry eye from worsening. Wash your lids and lashes each morning with a warm washcloth. Use an artificial tear, like Refresh or Systane, once or twice per day. Drink plenty of water. Stop smoking. Put a humidifier in your bedroom. Do not sleep with a fan.
If these simple lifestyle changes don’t help, then it is time to see your eye doctor.