What is dry eye?
Dry eye occurs when the eyes do not make enough tears to keep the eye moist and comfortable or the tears evaporate too quickly as the oil glands are blocked or abnormal. This can lead to irritation, excessive tearing or inflammation of the eye (red and swollen). If the main problem is a blockage of the oil secreting glands, then the condition is called blepharitis or meibomian gland dysfunction.
What are the symptoms of dry eye?
The symptoms of dry eye can be mild or severe. They include:
- dry or sore eyes;
- Intermittent blurring of vision that usually improves with each blink;
- Stinging or burning eyes;
- Excessive tearing
- Scratchiness, sandy, gritty or ‘foreign body’ sensation in the eye
- Stringy mucus in or around the eyes;
- Excessive eye irritation from smoke or wind;
- Discomfort when wearing contact lenses.
What causes dry eye?
Tear production normally decreases as we age and women are most often affected, especially after menopause.
Low humidity (air-conditioned rooms), haze, smoke and other air pollutants.
- Visual tasks
Prolonged reading, computer usage, driving and watching TV can lead to reduce blinking frequency and this will worsen dry eyes symptoms.
- Contact lens wear
Some contact lens material absorbs more moisture from the eye and can disrupt the balance of tear film production causing dry eyes.
Certain prescription and over the counter medications e.g. diuretics, beta-blockers, antihistamines, sleeping pills and those for relieving cough and cold can reduce tears secretion and cause dry eyes.
- Eyelid and other related conditions
Blepharitis, meibomitis, rosacea, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjrogen’s Syndrome are common conditions associated with dry eyes.
- Dry eyes can also occur after an eye surgery e.g. cataract and Lasik surgery.
How is dry eye diagnosed?
An ophthalmologist diagnoses dry eyes by examining the eyes and certain tests that measure tear production e.g. schirmer tear test, taste test and tear film break-up time (TBUT) test are done in the clinic.
How is dry eye treated?
- Eyedrops (artificial tears)
Artificial tears, similar to your own tears, lubricate the eyes and help replace the natural moisture layer of the tear film. Some are available without a prescription; can be used as often as necessary. If you are sensitive to the preservatives in artificial tears, preservative-free eyedrops are available.
- Activity/Environment adjustments to prevent tear evaporation
Avoid wearing contact lenses, airconditioned and other aggravating environment that will worsen dry eye. When indoor heat is on, keep a humidifier or a pan of water in the room to add moisture to dry air. Wearing wrap- around sunglasses to reduce direct exposure to elements (wind and sunlight) may reduce dry eye.
- Punctal occlusion
Special plugs applied to the punctum (where the tears drain away from the eye to the nose) to conserve tears in the eye is another option for severe cases.
Dry eyes shouldn’t interfere with your lifestyle. Make an appointment with our clinic about treatment options for your dry eyes.