What is Dry Eye Syndrome?
Dry eye is a condition in which there are insufficient tears to lubricate and nourish the eye. Tears are necessary for maintaining the health of the front surface of the eye and for providing clear vision. People with dry eyes either do not produce enough tears or have a poor quality of tears. Dry eye is a common and often chronic problem. While it mostly affects older adults, the prevalence has increased in younger generations mainly due to contact lens abuse and increased usage of electronics for daily activities. People with dry eyes may experience symptoms of irritated, gritty, scratchy, or burning eyes, a feeling of something in their eyes, excess watering, and blurred vision. Advanced dry eyes may damage the front surface of the eye and impair vision. Treatments for dry eyes aim to restore or maintain the normal amount of tears in the eye to minimize dryness and related discomfort and to maintain eye health.
Causes of Dry Eye and Treatment
- Inadequate amount of tears —Tears are produced by several glands in and around the eyelids. Tear production tends to diminish with age, with various medical conditions, or as a side effect of certain medicines. Environmental conditions such as wind and dry climates can also affect tear volume by increasing tear evaporation. When the normal amount of tear production decreases or tears evaporate too quickly from the eyes, symptoms of dry eye can develop.
- Poor quality of tears —Tears are made up of three layers: oil, water, and mucus. Each component serves a function in protecting and nourishing the front surface of the eye. Much like lotion acts as a barrier for drying out our skin, a smooth oil layer helps to prevent evaporation of the water layer, while the mucin layer functions in spreading the tears evenly over the surface of the eye. If the tears evaporate too quickly or do not spread evenly over the cornea (clear surface over top of the colored portion of the eye) due to deficiencies with any of the three tear layers, dry eye symptoms can develop.
- Depending on the time between onset of symptoms and actual treatment, damage to the eyes may be irreversible and most treatment will be palliative as opposed to restorative or therapeutic. Early detection and prevention of progression is key to success with future eye health for all. However, this is of particular importance for continued success in contact lens wearers. Treatment of dry eye can also result in more positive preoperative and postoperative outcomes for cataract, corneal, refractive surgeries.
- Treatment can include, but is not limited to: over-the-counter lubricating eye drops, prescription eye drops to increase tear production, other ocular medications, dietary supplementation and/or more intensive methods of treatment.
- At New Vision Family Eye Care, every first time patient has a preliminary assessment and screening for Dry Eye symptoms and preliminary testing for those with a high likelihood of having the condition.
- Additional testing is needed to create a customized dry eye treatment plan based on the severity of dry eye. Follow ups will be scheduled as necessary and guidance will be given as this condition is being managed.
To learn more and be examined for possible Dry Eye, schedule an appointment online or by phone with our office today!