According to the American Optometric Association, Dry Eye is a condition where a person does not have enough quality tears to lubricate and nourish the eye.
Symptoms of dry eye include:
- Irritated, gritty, scratchy or burning sensations
- Feeling as if there is a foreign object in the eye
- Excess watering (This is the body’s response to eye irritation)
- Blurred vision
- Advanced dry eye can cause damage to the front of the eye resulting in impaired vision
Causes of dry eye can be grouped into two main categories:
1.) Insufficient Quantity of Tears from decreased tear production or increased tear evaporation.
Decreased Tear Production due to
- Aging Certain medical conditions (rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, thyroid problems + more)
- Certain medications (antihistamines, decongestants, blood pressure medications, antidepressants + more)
- Laser eye surgery - symptoms of dry eyes related to this procedure are usually temporary
- Tear gland damage from inflammation or radiation
Increased Tear Evaporation due to
- Wind, smoke or dry air
- Blinking less often (tends to occur when you're concentrating - reading, driving or working at a computer
*See our “Digital Eye Fatigue” post to learn more!)
- Eyelid problems
Some of these situations that exacerbate dry eye can be avoided.
- Avoid air blowing in your eyes. (fans, air conditioners)
- Add moisture to the air. (humidifier)
- Consider wearing wraparound sunglasses or other protective eyewear.
- Take eye breaks during long tasks. Take periodic eye breaks. Close your eyes for a few minutes. Or blink repeatedly for a few seconds to help spread your tears evenly over your eyes.
- Be aware of your environment. The air at high altitudes, in desert areas and in airplanes can be extremely dry. When spending time in such an environment, it may be helpful to frequently close your eyes for a few minutes at a time to minimize evaporation of your tears.
- Position your computer screen below eye level. This helps you avoid opening your eyes as wide to view the screen, which may help slow the evaporation of your tears between blinks.
- Stop smoking and avoid smoke. Use artificial tears regularly. (for chronic dry eye cases)
However, in the next category we will explain how for some cases, there are serious underlying causes of dry eye that need treatment from an optometrist.
2.) Insufficient Quality of Tears *fortunately, this can usually be treated successfully by our optometrists
Imbalanced tear composition can cause increased tear evaporation. The tear film has 3 layers:
- Inner mucus layer (helps tears evenly spread on the whole eye surface)
- Middle watery layer (hydrates the eye and washes away foreign particles)
- Outer oily layer (prevents other layers from evaporating too quickly)
Problems with any of the layers can cause dry eye. For example, if the oily layer is not properly produced, then the tear film will evaporate much more quickly than normal, tears won’t be able to do their job and dry eye symptoms can result.
Two conditions that can affect the oily layer of tears include blepharitis and MGD (meibomian gland dysfunction).
Blepharitis describes inflammation of the eyelids. Overgrowth of bacteria on eyelids causes this inflammation, which can inhibit the function of the meibomian glands and prevent the oily layer of tears from being properly produced.
Treatment: BlephEx is a painless in-office procedure that removes the bacterial biofilm that accumulates on eyelids and eyelashes in only 6-8 minutes and helps your eyes produce proper tears again.
Watch this Animation to learn more about BlephEx and blepharitis
MGD (Meibomian Gland Dysfunction) occurs when the meibomian glands (where the oil component of tears are produced) are clogged with dried or solidified tears.
Treatment: MiBoFlo Thermoflo is a device that uses thermoelectric radiation (heat) and gentle massage to liquify dried up or viscous tears. This allows previously obstructed meibomian glands to function properly again, which relieves dry eye symptoms.
Watch this Animation to understand the significance of MGD
Dry eye complications include eye infections, damage to the eye surface, and decreased quality of life, so it is important to have a comprehensive eye examination if you experience any of these symptoms. Call to schedule an appointment at our office, where we have the latest technology available to diagnose and treat dry eye.
To learn more about Risk Factors for dry eye, how dry eye is diagnosed, and even more information, check out our website!
ttps://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/eye-and-vision-problems/glossary-of-eye-and-vision-conditions/dry-eye https://www.reviewofoptometry.com/article/blepharitis-and-dry-eye-a-common-yet-complicated-combination https://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/eye-and-vision-problems/glossary-of-eye-and-vision-conditions/blepharitis https://mibomedicalgroup.com/products/ https://theeyesolution.myalcon.com/theeyesolution/eye-health/eye-conditions/symptoms-causes-and-relief-for-dry-eyes/