What is Dry Eye?
Dry eye is a condition that occurs when the eye does not produce enough tears, or when there is a problem with the chemical composition of the tears.
Do you have Dry Eye?
Are you wondering if you might have Dry Eye? Have your eyes been feeling dry, itchy, scratchy, achy, blurry, irritated, or tired? Have you been using artificial tears to lubricate your eyes? Take this short quiz developed by Canadian eye car specialists to find out if you have Dry Eye and rate its severity.
What causes Dry Eye?
There are many factors that can contribute to dry eye. Most commonly, the eye gradually produces less tears as a part of the normal aging process or in response to hormonal changes. Environmental factors like climate, altitude, artificial conditions (like air conditioning and heat) and UV exposure can irritate the eye and disrupt tear production. Dry eyes can also be symptomatic of other health conditions such as arthritis, asthma and diabetes. Certain medications can disrupt tear production, a common side effect of anti-histamines, oral contraceptives, anti-depressants and other over the counter or prescribed pharmaceuticals.
Tears have two main components: water and an oily substance produced by glands along the eyelid. Over time these glands can get plugged preventing adequate secretion of oils. Without this oily component, tears evaporate too quickly and leave the eye feeling dry. For more information, see Meibomian Gland Dysfunction.
What are the symptoms of Dry Eye?
Many people describe dry eye as a gritty, scratchy sensation and may feel like there is a foreign object in the eye. Some notice red, stinging eyes and might experience excessive tearing. In more advanced cases, there may be some sensitivity to light with blurred or fluctuating vision.
How is Dry Eye treated?
Dry eye is typically considered a chronic condition and while not always curable, it can be effectively managed. Mild cases can be treated with a simple ocular lubrication drop used throughout the day, especially at night before bed. Gel drops or ointments can be used for more persistent dry eye, and medicated drops may be prescribed by an optometrist. In more severe cases, a procedure can be done to slow the draining of tears by the tear ducts. If related to a particular health condition, treatment of the underlying systemic condition may alleviate the dry eye. A warm compress is often recommended to help clear the glands along the eyelid and allow for proper oil secretion. For cases accompanied by inflammation, therapeutic doses of Omega-3 rich sources such as fish oil or flaxseed oil have been shown to be effective.
Left untreated, dry eye can lead to damage and scarring of the corneal tissue resulting in impaired vision. It can also make contact lens wear difficult and increase the risk for infection and inflammation of the eye. If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, book an appointment with your optometrist to find out the best treatment option for you.