What Is Dry Eye?

Dry eye is a stinging, burning or gritty feeling in the eyes that occurs when the surface of the eye doesn’t receive adequate lubrication. Your eyes are normally kept moist by a layer of lubricating tears that are created by glands located in the upper eyelid. Each time you blink, the lubricating tears spread over your cornea, the clear, protective outer layer of the eye. If the tears are inadequate or of poor quality, you may experience dry eye.

Dry eye may be a temporary condition based on the environment, but it is often a chronic condition that is caused by medications, autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, or problems with the eye itself. One risk factor for dry eye is aging.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Optometric Association estimate that more than 3 million women and 1 million men experience chronic dry eye. These groups advise that dry eye be taken seriously, as it can cause inflammation, infection, blurry vision, difficulty performing everyday activities and, rarely, blindness.