Optometry Blog

The Lowdown on Dry Eyes

The Lowdown on Dry Eyes

Tears are something that very few of us think about, unless you’re shedding a few after watching a particularly sad movie (or are a Wallabies fan) or maybe peeling an onion.  But tears play a vital role in keeping your eyes comfortable and your vision clear and if they’re not working properly then they can have a surprisingly big impact on your life.

Broadly speaking there are two kinds of tears.  Firstly there are reflex tears, which are the ones the aforementioned sad movie, football game or onion can induce.  These are the tears that most of us are familiar with, the ones that spill out of your eyes and make your nose run.  Reflex tears are produced primarily by the lacrimal gland, which is located in the top eyelid and their main role is to flush foreign substances out of the eyes.

The second type of tears could be termed baseline tears, and these are the ones that don’t get much attention (unless they stop working).  The baseline tears are always present and form a clear protective film on the cornea, the clear window on the front of your eye.  They are vital for maintaining clear vision and comfortable eyes.

This tear film contains a multitude of ingredients which are produced by a variety of glands and cells.  Baseline tears are complicated and a problem with any or all of these components can cause problems.

The tear film forms the very front surface of the focussing system of the eye and therefore needs to be clear and stable to provide good vision.  You can imagine that if you had a pair of glasses with an irregular oily film on the front of the lenses then you wouldn’t see very well out of them.  If you find your vision seems to vary when you blink or gets worse after a period of concentration this could indicate a problem with the stability of your tears.

A stable tear film is also very important for comfortable eyes.  Burning, grittiness, irritation, itchiness and even watery eyes can all be indicators of tear issues.

There are a range of causes for tear problems, including general health, age, environmental factors and certain eye conditions and correspondingly there are also a range of treatments.  If you think your tears may be letting you down or even if you just want to check that they’re working well, the best thing to do is have your eyes tested.  It’s easy and painless and as well as checking your tears you can also be assessed for conditions such as glaucoma and macular degeneration.

For a comprehensive eyetest which is bulk-billed to Medicare you can see Geoff at Clear Optometry by calling to make an appointment on 4130 5099 or dropping in to the practice at shops 11 & 12, 1-5 Bauer Street.  No referral is necessary.