Most Australians will experience symptoms of Dry Eyes at some stage in their lives. It can occur at any age, and in people who are otherwise healthy. Dry Eye Syndrome occurs when the eye does not produce tears properly, or when the tears are not of the correct consistency and evaporate too quickly.
In addition, inflammation of the surface of the eye may occur along with Dry Eyes. If left untreated, this condition can lead to pain, ulcers, or scars on the cornea, and some loss of vision. However, permanent loss of vision from Dry Eyes is uncommon.
Insight Optometrists offers free screening and assessment and will devise a Dry Eyes Treatment Plan for your specific condition.
Dry Eyes can make it more difficult to perform some activities, such as using a computer or reading for an extended period of time, and it can decrease tolerance for dry environments, such as the air inside an airplane.
Other names for Dry Eyes include:
Dry Eye syndrome
keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS)
dysfunctional tear syndrome
evaporative tear deficiency
aqueous tear deficiency
LASIK-induced neurotrophic epitheliopathy (LNE).
What are the Types of Dry Eyes ?
Aqueous tear-deficient Dry Eyes occur when the lacrimal glands fail to produce enough of the watery component of tears to maintain a healthy eye surface.
Evaporative Dry Eyes may result from inflammation of the Meibomian glands, also located in the eyelids. These glands make the lipid or oily part of tears that slows evaporation and keeps the tears stable.
Dry eyes can also be associated with:
- inflammation of the surface of the eye, the lacrimal gland, or the conjunctiva;
- any eye disease process that alters the components of the tears;
- an increase in the surface of the eye, as in thyroid disease when the eye protrudes forward;
- cosmetic surgery, if the eyelids are opened too widely.
What are the Symptoms of Dry Eyes?
Symptoms may include any of the following:
- stinging or burning of the eye
- a sandy or gritty feeling as if something is in the eye
- episodes of excess tears following very dry periods
- a stringy discharge from the eye
- pain and redness of the eye
- episodes of blurred vision
- heavy eyelids
- inability to cry when emotionally stressed
- uncomfortable contact lenses
- decreased tolerance of reading, working on the computer, or any activity that requires sustained visual attention
- eye fatigue.
If the symptoms persist, an eye care professional should be contacted for an accurate diagnosis of the condition and to begin treatment to avoid permanent damage.
Dry Eyes can be a temporary or chronic condition, due to single or multiple causes, including:
- Side effects of some medications, including antihistamines, nasal decongestants, tranquilizers, certain blood pressure medicines, Parkinson’s medications, birth control pills and anti-depressants.
- Skin disease on or around the eyelids and diseases of the glands in the eyelids, such as Meibomian gland dysfunction.
- Pregnancy or hormone replacement therapy. Women taking only estrogen are 70 percent more likely to experience Dry Eyes, whereas those taking estrogen and progesterone have a 30 percent increased risk of developing the condition.
- Following refractive surgery known as LASIK. These symptoms generally last three to six months, but may last longer in some cases.
- Chemical or thermal burns that scar the membrane lining the eyelids and covering the eye.
- Infrequent blinking associated with staring at computer or video screens
- Excessive or insufficient dosages of vitamins
- Homeopathic remedies
- Loss of sensation in the cornea from long-term contact lens wear
- Immune system disorders such as Sjögren’s syndrome, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis. Sjögren’s leads to inflammation and dryness of the mouth, eyes, and other mucous membranes. It can also affect other organs, including the kidneys, lungs and blood vessels.
- As a symptom of chronic inflammation of the conjunctiva, the membrane lining the eyelid and covering the front part of the eye, or the lacrimal gland. Chronic conjunctivitis can be caused by certain eye diseases, infection and exposure to irritants such as chemical fumes and tobacco smoke, or drafts from air conditioning or heating.
- As a result of the surface area of the eye being increased, for example in thyroid disease when the eye protrudes forward, or after cosmetic surgery if the eyelids are opened too widely.
- Exposure keratitis, in which the eyelids do not close completely during sleep.
Many of the current treatment options are aimed at treating the symptoms of the condition. Eye drops, gels or ointments to lubricate the surface of the eye are often quite effective, however, the results are often only temporary. Insight Optometrists has access to all the latest eye-drops and information on which would be most suitable for the specific condition, including eye-drops that are contact lens compatible.
Environmental factors that could dehydrate the eyes and tear film could include:
- Air conditioning
- Contact lens wear
- Prolonged computer use
- Participation in extreme sports
- Caffeine or alcohol consumption
- Not drinking enough water
- Too much time spent indoors
- Cigarette smoking
- Certain medications
- Exposure to smoke, dust, wind, extreme heat and cold
Ideally avoiding the high-risk situations described above would benefit Dry Eyes, however, this is not always possible.
Drinking more water can help, too. Mild dehydration often makes problems worse. This is especially true during hot, dry and windy weather. Simply drinking more water can greatly assist in reducing the symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome.
Other courses of action to ease Dry Eyes include:
Making a conscious effort to blink more often
Drinking eight to ten glasses of water per day
Boosting the humidity of the air at home and at work by running a humidifier
Placing plants and/or dishes of water in a too-dry room
Wearing sunglasses outdoors
Contact lens wearers should review the type of lens worn, duration of wear and cleaning and storage solutions used. If Dry Eye syndrome persists, a contact lens check with an optometrist should be arranged.
Insight Optometrists offers free screening and assessment for Dry Eyes and will devise a Dry Eyes Treatment Plan for your specific condition.