What is Dry Eye?
Normally, the eye constantly bathes itself in tears. By producing tears at a slow and steady rate, the eye stays moist and comfortable. Sometimes people do not produce enough tears to keep their eyes healthy and comfortable. This condition is known as Dry Eye.
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.
What are the symptoms of Dry Eye?
The usual symptoms include:
- Stinging or burning eyes
- Blurred vision, especially when reading
- Scratchiness or a feeling of grittiness in your eye
- Stringy mucus in or around the eye
- Red and irritated eyes
- Excessive eye irritation from smoke or wind
- Excess tearing
- Discomfort when wearing contact lenses
What causes Dry Eye?
A wide variety of causes include:
- Eye lid anatomy
- Certain disease such as thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus
- Medications such as diuretics for high blood pressure, beta-blockers for heart or high blood pressure; antihistamines for allergies, sleeping pills, and pain relievers
How is Dry Eye diagnosed?
An eye doctor is usually able to diagnose dry eye by examining the eyes or by performing tests that measure tear production.
Source: American Academy of Ophthalmology https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/what-is-dry-eye
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Treatment Options for Dry Eye Syndrome
Eyedrops called artificial tears are similar to your own tears. They lubricate the eyes and help maintain moisture.
Conserving your eyes’ own tears is another approach to keeping the eyes moist. Tears drain out of the eye through a small channel into the nose. Your ophthalmologist may close these channels either temporarily or permanently. The closure conserves your own tears and makes artificial tears last longer.
If your eyes are irritated, your eye doctor can treat those problem. They may recommend:
- prescription eye drops or ointments
- warm compresses on the eyes
- massaging your eyelids
- certain eyelid cleaners