Dry eyes? Then why are my eyes tearing?

Illustration by Jason Aponte

Illustration by Jason Aponte

Dry eyes can present itself with many different symptoms like burning, sandy gritty feeling, and blurred vision. It may sound like a complete contradiction, but sometimes tearing can also be a symptom of “Dye Eyes”. How can this be dry eyes if I’m tearing? There is a simple explanation to this riddle.

The tear is composed of three layers.

  1.  The outermost layer is oil.
  2. The middle layer is water.
  3. The lowest layer on surface of the eye is mucous.

When the outermost layer is compromised, the oil is not sufficiently present, then the tear will evaporate or run out of the eye leaving the eye dry.  So what do I do if I have dry eyes?

The most important step is to have a routine eye exam to evaluate the health of your eyes. The optometrist can evaluate your tears and treat your dry eyes depending on which layer or layers are affected.

The oil layer is produced by glands found in the eyelids. The oils are released through tiny holes found just behind the lashes at the edge of the lids. The water layer is produced by the lacrimal gland located on the upper, outer portion behind the bone. And, the mucous layer is produced by cells on the surface of the eye. If the oil layer is affected then hot, moist compresses with massages may be necessary in order to drain stagnant oils from the glands. This technique should be taught by your eye doctor to avoid injury and to get the best results.

There may be an inflammatory reason to the dry eyes in which case Omega 3 supplements and decreasing Omega 6 consumption may help the tear composition. Medications like Restasis and Xiidra may be useful in combating dry eyes by decreasing the inflammatory response of the body, but require a written prescription by your eye doctor.

If you have visited your local drug store lately, I’m sure you have been overwhelmed by the number of lubricating drops on the shelves.  Why play the guessing game? Your eye doctor can help you find the right drops based on your specific dry eye problem. As dry eye disease progresses, all layers of the tear may be affected and damage to the surface of the eye can occur. Now that your education has begun about dry eyes and before you attempt any of these possible solutions, see your optometrist to determine the best treatment for your dry eye.