Dry Eye is an eye disease that affects the ocular and tear surface and can be caused by various factors. Generally, visual disturbance, discomfort, and an unstable tear film is experienced by patients. It may also come alongside other factors that cause ocular surface damage such as eye allergy and Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (wherein an estimated 86% of patients have dry eye diagnosis).
Tears provide lubrication to the eyes but when there is low production of tears, the eye may suffer. Tears are also capable of maintaining eye health as it cleanses the eye surface of dirt and other foreign bodies that may invade the frontal area.
Dry Eye disease is categorized into two main types. The first is associated with SS or Sjögren syndrome while the other is not associated with the syndrome (non-SS KCS). This syndrome usually happens not only when there is not enough tears to lubricate the eyes. It can also occur when the tears produced are of low quality.
Causes of inadequate amount of tears
Age: Several glands found at the inner corner of each eye and on the eyelids manufacture the tears that act to lubricate the surface. People who are around 65 years of age are prone to develop this eye condition.
Medical Conditions: As we age, tear production is lessened due to medical conditions like diabetes, vitamin A deficiency, thyroid disorders and rheumatoid arthritis just to count a few.
Gender: Women are most like to contract this problematic eye condition compared to men. This can be due to contraceptive medicines, hormonal changes (during pregnancy), or menopause.
Medications: It can also be a result of side effects from taking particular medicines such as antihistamines, decongestants, some antidepressants, and pain relievers (Ibuprofen, Lortab) among others.
Environmental Factors: Dry Eye can also be caused by environmental factors like dry climate and wind conditions as these are agents of evaporation. When tear production is on a minimal level or leaves the eyes fast, symptoms of DES may surface.
Long-term Contact Lens Usage: Patients who have used contact lenses for the longest time can be candidates for DES. Nevertheless, there are eye drops that can be prescribed by experienced eye doctors to alleviate the dryness.
Tears have three layers and it’s not as simple as you think of them as just plain liquid that goes out of our eyes. The components are water, mucus and oil.
The oil layer keeps the water layer from evaporating. The mucin layer, on the other hand helps in the even distribution of tears across the eye surface.
All three components protect and nourish our eye’s front surface.
However, when any of these components don’t carry out their duties or have deficiencies, low quality tears are produced; thus, dry eye symptom may ensue.
Tears are spread every time we blink our eyes and they are distributed across the eye’s visible surface—the cornea. Tears are there to provide lubrication and lessen risk of contracting eye infection. They are also there to protect us from foreign matters that enter our eyes by accident.
The tears in excess flow down into tiny drainage ducts found at each corner of the eyes and from the eyelids. They are directly drained towards the back of our nose. When there is no balance between tear drainage and production, dry eye problem will come into view.
Early detection of a dry eye disease helps in preventing eye scarring and corneal ulcers.
Dry eye patients usually complain about experiencing the following:
Here at Trillium Eye Care, dry eye patients are diagnosed using our comprehensive eye exam. Our eye doctors take time to evaluate the quality and quantity of tears. These we do by means of getting information from patients based on their medical and optical history. We do this to learn about the causes that contributed to the problem.
There is also an external analysis of the eye during this particular examination which involves looking at the blink dynamics and the lid structure while in the process of examining the eye.
Irregularities in the formation or production of tears are also checked. We use special dyes to make it easier for us to see if the tear flow is normal or not. This also helps in highlighting changes on the external part of the eye as caused by lesser tear production.
With these measures, our optometrists can determine the course of treatment applicable for each patient.
Treatments may vary according to a patient’s condition. This stage aims to maintain or restore the amount of tears back to normal and to minimize the dryness and discomfort. For the most part, treating a dry eye helps in eye health maintenance.
As this eye condition can lead to a chronic stage, certified optometrists may prescribe medications or other treatment methods that can avert other symptoms to resurface. Below are some of them:
Over-the-counter tear solutions can help manage mild case dry eyes. These artificial liquids can augment tear production. What doctors often recommend are the preservative-free types as they have fewer additive components. Those whose eyes don’t respond to artificial tears are provided with additional measures.
Blocking the tear ducts from draining tears fast from your eyes can help solve the issue. They can be blocked by means of using removable small gel-like or silicone plugs known as punctual plugs. Some eye doctors may even recommend blocking the tear ducts in order to maintain lubrication and reduce chances of dry eye occurrences.
Optometrists also prescribe eye drops that can be bought over the counter. This helps in the lubrication process as well.
There may be some suggestions of taking nutritional supplements high in Omega-3 fatty acids to help resolve mild cases.
Some practitioners may prescribe ointments, lid massage, or using warm compress (aside from using eye drops) to ease out the weird feeling or decrease the inflamed eye surface.
Besides these available treatment options, patients are also enjoined to take necessary self-care to help in reducing this eye condition.
Here are several ways to minimize the effects of a dry eye problem:
If you feel that what you are experiencing right now is most likely leading to this type of eye condition, contact us for an appointment now. Our optometrists in Jacksonville will be too glad to help in analyzing your eye health.
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