Solutions to a common eye problem
What Is It?
Dry eye syndrome is a condition where the body is not able to make enough tears to protect the front surface of the eye and provide good quality vision. Our tear film is crucial to good vision as well as a healthy and comfortable front surface of the eye. The tear film has three layers that work together in a complex manner to supply all the nutrients to the front surface of the eye as well as protect the eye from infection.
Who Gets It?
A lot more people than you think. Dry eye syndrome is a very common disease. Contact lens wearers, computer users, post-op surgical patients, people living in arid environments and people over the age of 55 are most commonly affected by dry eye syndrome.
What Are the Symptoms?
Common symptoms of dry eye include blurred or fluctuating vision, itchy, gritty or burning red eyes, frequent tearing and eye infections. Other common symptoms include uncomfortable contact lens wear, foreign body sensation and sore or tired eyes when reading or using the computer. If you have any of these symptoms, you may have some degree of dry eye syndrome.
What Causes it?
When the body is not able to make enough tears to protect the surface of the eye, cells on the front part of the cornea become sick or even die - leading to a variety of symptoms that affect both comfort and vision.
Prolonged reading or computer work can often cause evaporation of the tear film. Dry eyes can also be caused by hormone changes, allergies, auto-immune disease, eye surgery, contact lens wear, eye infections and drugs such as oral antihistamines, anti-depressants or hormone replacement therapy. Environmental factors such as exposure to cigarette smoke or other chemicals can also lead to problems.
Do You Have Dry Eye Syndrome?
- Trouble wearing contact lenses?
- Blurred or fluctuating vision?
- Itchy, gritty, or burning eyes?
- Tired eyes when reading?
The first step is finding a doctor who will take time to accurately determine the cause of the dry eye and discuss your treatment options with you. There are many therapies available to treat dry eyes and either increase or retain your own natural tears. The therapy that is right for you is dependent on the cause of the dry eye condition.
Common therapies include artificial tear preparations, lubricant ointments and mechanisms for partial or total blockage of the drainage of the tear film called punctual occlusion. Other, more advanced therapies include nutritional supplements as well as both oral and topical medications. Many conditions do not have treatments that provide immediate results. It is normal to take a few months to significantly improve many of the conditions.
Dry eyes may need to be treated on a daily basis. Therapeutic goals are to control or eliminate the symptoms, maintain and preserve visual acuity and prevent complications secondary to inflammation and drying out of the ocular surface. If you suffer from dry eyes, ask your eye doctor for a consultation to make your vision more clear and your eyes more comfortable.