WHAT IS DRY EYE?
Our eyes need tears to stay healthy and comfortable. If your eyes do not produce enough tears, it is called dry eye. Dry eye is also when your eyes do not make the right type of tears or tear film.
How Do Tears Work?
When you blink, a film of tears spreads over the eye. This keeps the eye’s surface smooth and clear. The tear film is important for good vision.
The tear film is made of three layers:
- An oily layer
- A watery layer
- A mucus layer
Each layer of the tear film serves a purpose.
The oily layer is the outside of the tear film. It makes the tear surface smooth and keeps tears from drying up too quickly. This layer is made in the eye’s meibomian glands.
The watery layer is the middle of the tear film. It makes up most of what we see as tears. This layer cleans the eye, washing away particles that do not belong in the eye. This layer comes from the lacrimal glands in the eyelids.
The mucus layer is the inner layer of the tear film. This helps spread the watery layer over the eye’s surface, keeping it moist. Without mucus, tears would not stick to the eye. Mucus is made in the conjunctiva. This is the clear tissue covering the white of your eye and inside your eyelids.
Normally, our eyes constantly make tears to stay moist. If our eyes are irritated, or we cry, our eyes make a lot of tears. But, sometimes the eyes don’t make enough tears or something affects one or more layers of the tear film. In those cases, we end up with dry eyes.
Dry Eye Symptoms
Here are some of the symptoms of dry eye.
- You feel like your eyes are stinging and burning.
- Blurred vision, especially when reading.
- There is a scratchy or gritty feeling like something is in your eye.
- There are strings of mucus in or around your eyes.
- It is painful to wear contact lenses.
- You have lots of tears in your eyes.
Having a lot of tears in your eyes with a dry eye might sound odd. But your eyes make more tears when they are irritated by dry eyes.
Dry Eye Causes
People tend to make fewer tears as they get older due to hormonal changes. Both men and women can get dry eyes. However, it is more common in women, especially those who have gone through menopause.
Here are some other causes of dry eye:
- Certain diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, Sjögren’s syndrome, thyroid disease, and lupus.
- Blepharitis (when eyelids are swollen or red), Entropion/ ectropion (eyelids turn in or outwards).
- Being in smoke, wind, or a very dry climate.
- Looking at a computer screen for a long time, reading, and other activities that reduce blinking.
- Using contact lenses for a long time.
- Having refractive eye surgery, such as LASIK.
- Taking certain medicines, such as: diuretics (water pills) for high blood pressure, beta-blockers, for heart problems or high blood pressure, Allergy, and cold medicines (antihistamines), sleeping pills, anxiety, and antidepressant medicines, heartburn medicines.
Tell your doctor about all the prescription and non-prescription medicines you take.
Is there anything you can do to help with dry eye?
Having dry eyes can be difficult. However, there are many things you can try to help you manage it better:
- Use your prescribed eye drops regularly. Finding eye drops that work for you can make a huge difference.
- Adjust your environment. Lowering temperature and using a humidifier may help, as central heating and air conditioning can worsen your symptoms.
- Avoid dusty, windy and smoky areas or use wrap-around glasses when you are exposed to these environments.
- Take rest periods and remember to blink often when you are using the computer, watching television and reading.
- Try to have a healthy balanced diet, with flax seed as well as foods containing omega 3 and 6, such as oily fish, nuts, seeds, eggs, green leafy vegetables, etc.
- If you wear contact lenses, have regular eye follow-ups. You may need a break from wearing contact lenses if your eyes are dry, or explore different types of lenses that may be more suitable for dry eye.
What is the treatment for dry eyes?
Once your eye doctor confirmed you have dry eye, they will discuss what can be done to help you. You cannot cure dry eyes but there are some treatments that can help your eyes feel more comfortable.
- Using artificial tears (eye drops)
Eye drops aim to supplement and replace your natural tears and make the eye more comfortable. They can also prevent any damage to the front of your eye, which can happen if the eye is dry for a long time.
- Making the most of your natural tears
Certain eye drops (RESTASIS or XIIDRA) help increase your eyes’ natural ability to produce tears, which may be reduced by inflammation due to Chronic Dry Eye.
- Reducing the draining away of the tears
It’s possible to help dry eyes by blocking up the drainage holes in your eyelids with small devices called punctal plugs. Stopping the tears from draining away may help your tears stay in your eye for longer. Often plugs are helpful at reducing the number of drops you need to use in the eyes every day.
- Special contacts
You may find relief from chronic dry eye by wearing scleral or bandage contact lenses. These special contacts are designed to protect the surface of your eye and prevent moisture from escaping. This option is helpful if your chronic dry eye is caused mainly by losing tears too quickly.
Please contact us to schedule your eye appointment for DRY EYE EVALUATION.