Why are my eyes burning from dry eye?
Patients with dry eye disease often experience burning of the eyes. This is because the tears are protection for the eyeball.
If you have a dry eye disease, your tears evaporate off of the eye very quickly. For example, when a patient blinks, they open their eye, and within three seconds that tear has started to evaporate off the front surface of the eyeball. Now that eye is left without its protective covering!
Since the eye is extremely innervated with nerves, once the tear layer, the protective covering of the eye is gone and evaporated, those nerves are now exposed to the environment and the air. That's painful for the eye.
The eye needs tears as a protective coating. Once that protective coating is gone, the eye will burn. That's your indicator that you need to blink!
The eye's asking for more tears. It's asking for that protective coating back, and that's what happens when your eyes start burning. If you get a really good blink in, you re-coat the surface, and the burning is gone. It's a chronic cycle.
Is it normal to have sticky eyes in the morning?
It is not normal for a patient's eyelids to stick together in the morning when they wake up. Often, a patient experiencing stickiness around the eyelids or trouble opening their eyes first thing in the morning, it's very likely that they have inflammation or blepharitis of the eyelids and eyelashes. This is a very common finding during a dry eye examination at the office and something we treat every day. We treat blepharitis or inflammation of the eyelids both in the office with a device called Blephex, which allows us to remove the plaque that grows on the eyelid margin safely.
Then, the patient maintains that therapy at home with eyelid cleaning techniques that we teach them in the office.