Dry eye disease is a prevalent condition characterized by insufficient lubrication provided by tears for the eyes. Tears may be inadequate and unstable due to various factors. For instance, insufficient tear production or the generation of poor-quality tears can result in tear instability, leading to inflammation and damage to the eye's surface.
The discomfort associated with dry eyes is notable, causing sensations of stinging or burning. Instances of dry eyes can be triggered in specific situations, such as during air travel, in air-conditioned environments, while cycling, or after prolonged use of a computer screen.
To alleviate the discomfort of dry eyes, treatments are available. These may involve lifestyle adjustments and the use of eye drops. It's likely that ongoing adoption of these measures will be necessary to effectively manage and control the symptoms of dry eyes.
Commonly affecting both eyes, signs and symptoms may comprise:
- A stinging, burning, or scratchy feeling in the eyes
- Stringy mucus in or around the eyes
- Light sensitivity
- Redness of the eyes
- A sense of foreign objects in the eyes
- Challenges in wearing contact lenses
- Nighttime driving difficulties
- Watery eyes, a natural response to dry eye irritation
- Blurred vision or eye fatigue
Various factors contribute to the development of dry eyes, disrupting the equilibrium of the healthy tear film. The tear film comprises three layers—fatty oils, aqueous fluid, and mucus—which typically work together to maintain the eyes' surface lubricated, smooth, and clear. Disruptions in any of these layers can lead to dry eyes.
The dysfunction of the tear film can result from diverse causes, such as hormonal fluctuations, autoimmune conditions, inflammation of eyelid glands, or allergic eye disease. In certain cases, individuals experience dry eyes due to reduced tear production or heightened tear evaporation.
For individuals with occasional or mild symptoms of dry eyes, regular use of over-the-counter eye drops, known as artificial tears, is often sufficient. If the symptoms persist and become more severe, there are alternative options available, depending on the underlying cause of the dry eyes.
Various treatments aim to address or manage the conditions or factors contributing to dry eyes. Some approaches focus on enhancing tear quality or preventing rapid drainage of tears from the eyes.
Punctal Plugs: One method involves using tiny silicone plugs, known as punctal plugs, to block the openings to the tear ducts. These plugs are inserted into the small openings (puncta) located in the inner corner of the upper and lower eyelids. By closing these openings, the plugs help preserve both natural and artificial tears.
Treating the Underlying Cause: Addressing an underlying health issue can be instrumental in alleviating dry eyes. For example, if a medication is identified as the cause, an eye care specialist may recommend an alternative medication without the side effect of dry eyes. Conditions like ectropion (outward turning of the eyelids) may require referral to an oculoplastic surgeon.
Medications: Prescription medicines may be prescribed, including antibiotics to reduce eyelid inflammation or eye drops containing cyclosporine or corticosteroids to control corneal inflammation. Other options include eye inserts, tear-stimulating medicines, eye drops made from the patient's blood, and nasal spray medications to increase tear production.
Other Procedures: Various procedures may be employed, such as closing tear ducts partially or completely to reduce tear loss. Silicone plugs or thermal cautery can be used for this purpose. Special contact lenses, like scleral lenses or bandage lenses, may be recommended for severe cases. Unblocking oil glands can be achieved through warm compresses, eye masks, or a thermal pulsation device. Additionally, techniques like intense-pulsed light therapy followed by eyelid massage may benefit individuals with severe dry eyes.
Ready to find out more?
Schedule a 'MEDICAL EXAM' with our doctor's to learn more about your dry eyes.