Dry eye treatment offers relief for those who suffer from the uncomfortable symptoms of dry eye. From mildly irritating cases of scratchy eyes to full-blown incidents of highly sensitive eyes, dry eye is the term used to describe eyes that do not produce enough tears, or eyes that produce a change of quality in tears. The eye’s natural tear layer is composed of three layers:
- The innermost mucus layer helps maintain a stable tear film. Abnormalities of this layer are common in disorders such as Steven Johnson syndrome, Vitamin A deficiency, trachoma, chemical burns, chemical preservatives and contact lens wear.
- The middle watery/aqueous layer moisturises and nourishes the front surface of the eye. People suffering from Sjögren’s syndrome, keratoconjunctivitis sicca, radiation and cicatricial surface disease will commonly have abnormalities of this layer. Contact lenses will also affect this part of the tear film.
- The outer oily/lipid layer prevents or slows down evaporation of the tear film. Since the oil is secreted by the oil glands of the eyelids, it is commonly affected by eye lid conditions such as meibomianitis, blepharitis and acne rosacea. Again, the use of contact lenses also affects this layer.
While eye specialists confirm that contact lenses, disorders, injury, chemicals and vitamin deficiency are all causes of dry eye, a number of other factors could also affect the quality of the tear layer:
- Corneal and conjunctival infections can disrupt the tear layer and even cause blurry vision.
- Blink mechanism abnormalities such as lagophthalmos, blepharospasm and Bell’s palsy causes incomplete blink reflexes, resulting in increased evaporation and exposure of the inferior part of the eye which can then become dry.
- Abnormalities of the eyelids such as ectropion (an outward sagging of the bottom eye lids), or entropion (an inward roll of the lower lids) can lead to dry eye symptoms.
- As people grow older the decrease in basal tear secretion can cause dry eyes. A decline in estrogen levels in post-menopausal woman typically causes dry eye symptoms.
- Environmental factors such as hot weather, low humidity, air conditioners, air pollution and wind all cause increased evaporation of tears.
- Certain systemic medication like retinoid treatments, anti-cholinergic medicine, antihistamines, diuretics, anti-depressants, oral contraceptive, hormone replacement drugs and beta-blockers can all aggravate dry eye symptoms.
- Working on computer screens or driving for long hours leads to reduced blink rates, resulting in dry eyes.
- A number of medical conditions result in dry eyes. These include Acne rosacea, Rheumatoid arthritis, chronic active hepatitis, Parkinson’s disease, systemic Lupus erythematosus, Steven Johnson syndrome, Thyroid disorders, Sjögren’s syndrome, infectious mononucleosis, Crohn’s disease and AIDS.
Dry eye syndrome is usually diagnosed during an eye examination at an eye laser clinic. An optometrist or ophthalmologist typically uses a slitlamp bio-microscope to view the patient’s corneas through intense magnification to examine the tear layer. A drop of a special dye, known as fluorescein, may be placed on the eye to assess the quantity and quality of the patient’s tears, and observe how quickly the tear layer breaks up after each blink.
Dry eye cannot be cured, but a range of treatment options are available to lessen eye sensitivity and ensure that eyes remain healthy and comfortable. The most frequent method of dry eye treatment is the use of artificial tears or tear substitutes. For more severe dry eye, ointment may be prescribed, typically used at bedtime. In some cases, small plugs called punctum plugs may be inserted into the drainage ducts in the inner corner of the eye lid margin to reduce the rate of drainage and loss of tears.
To keep dry eye symptoms in check, it is important to have regular checkups and to consult a practitioner at a trusted eye laser clinic. It is important to follow instructions carefully. If the treatment prescribed is not relieving your symptoms, let your eye specialists know as soon as possible.