Dry eye syndrome is a common condition in which the eyes are insufficiently lubricated due to an inadequate tear film.
Common symptoms of dry eye include to irritation, redness and watering eyes. Dry eye can be due to a deficiency in tear production, excessive tear evaporation, or a chemical imbalance in the tears composition.
It can cause damage to the ocular surface as the disease progresses leading to vision loss. Alleviating the symptoms of dry eye is important. Left untreated, it can be debilitating.
Causes Of Dry Eye
There are many different causes of dry eye. People usually begin experiencing symptoms as they age. It can result from certain medications, medical conditions and injuries. Dry eye tends to affect women more than men. Common causes of dry eye include the following:
- Antihistamines, decongestants and blood-pressure medications
- Rheumatoid arthritis, Diabetes, Sjögren’s syndrome and thyroid disease
- Environmental conditions such as smoke, wind or excessive sun
- Long-term contact lens use
- Eye injury
- Eye or eyelid surgery
- Inflammation of the eye (conjunctivitis or keratitis)
Symptoms Of Dry Eye
The symptoms of dry eye typically occur in both eyes, and include the following:
- Stinging, burning or scratchiness
- Eye fatigue
- Sensitivity to light
- Difficulty wearing contact lenses
- Excessive tearing
- Blurry vision
Diagnosis of Dry Eye
Dry eye can be diagnosed after a thorough examination of the eyes. Specific tests including tear break-up time, Schirmer’s test and tear osmolarity can help to identify the cause of dryness. Once the cause is identified, specific treatment can be employed.
Treatment Of Dry Eye
Treatment for dry eye depends on its cause and severity, as well as the patient’s overall health and personal preference.
Nonsurgical treatments, which include the following, are often effective:
- Increasing humidity levels at home or work – especially when furnace or A/C running
- Avoiding environmental irritants (e.g. smoke)
- Eliminating medications that may be responsible
- Artificial tears or a lubricating ointment
- Omega-3 fatty acids
If less invasive methods are unsuccessful, other treatments, which include the following, may be an option:
- Insertion of punctal plugs to limit tear drainage
- Punctal cautery to permanently close the drainage channels
- Therapeutic contact lenses
- Eyelid surgery may be recommended.
- Amniotic membrane
Preventing Dry Eye
There are steps that can be taken to prevent dry-eye symptoms. Simple lifestyle modifications such as wearing protective glasses on windy days, and giving the eyes a break during reading or other tasks that require intense focus, can effectively reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms.