What is it?
Dry eye is a condition in which a person doesn't have enough quality tears to lubricate and nourish the eye. Tears are necessary for maintaining the health of the front surface of the eye and for providing clear vision. Dry eye is a common and often chronic problem, particularly in older adults.
Tears play a major role in protecting the eye by having immunologic enzymes and also wash away some of the microorganisms / foreign objects from the eye itself. The Dry eye can occur if there is an imbalance between production and drainage.
What are the Symptoms?
People with dry eyes may experience:
Irritated, gritty, scratchy or burning eyes
A feeling of something in their eyes
Advanced dry eyes may damage the front surface of the eye and impair vision
What Causes Dry Eyes?
Age: Dry eyes are a part of the natural aging process. The majority of people over age 65 experience some symptoms of dry eyes.
Gender: Women are more likely to develop dry eyes due to hormonal changes caused by pregnancy, the use of oral contraceptives and menopause.
Medications. Certain medicines, including antihistamines, decongestants, blood pressure medications and antidepressants, can reduce tear production.
Medical conditions: People with rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and thyroid problems are more likely to have symptoms of dry eyes. Also, problems with inflammation of the eyelids (blepharitis), inflammation of the surfaces of the eye, or the inward or outward turning of eyelids can cause dry eyes to develop.
Environmental conditions: Exposure to smoke, wind and dry climates can increase tear evaporation resulting in dry eye symptoms. Failure to blink regularly, such as when staring at a computer screen for long periods of time, can also contribute to drying of the eyes.
Other factors: Long-term use of contact lenses can be a factor in the development of dry eyes. Refractive eye surgeries, such as LASIK, can decrease tear production and contribute to dry eyes.
How is it Treated?
Treatment of Dry Eyes depends on the symptoms of the patient. It can include warm compressors, Lid scrubs, Artificial tears or prescriptions such as Restasis or Xiidra (Immunomodulatory or Reducing inflammation), which in turn can help increase in tear production. Punctal plugs are also an option. Punctal Plugs are a minor procedure where the punctum is blocked which prevents excess tears going to the nasolacrimal duct which can increase lubrication near the surface of the eye. Nutritional supplements like Omega 3 Fatty acids with DHA and Fish Oil can also improve the natural tear production.