Dry eyes occur when the eye does not produce tears properly or when the tears are not of the correct consistency and evaporate to quickly.
Tears are composed of three major componets; an oily (lipid) layer, a watery (lacrimal) layer, and a mucus layer. All three components are important and necessary for comfort, ocular health and clear vision.
Dry eyes can be a temporary or chronic condition. Dry eyes can be caused by seasonal allergies or a side effect of some medications, oral contraceptives and anti-depressants. Women who are on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) often experience dry eye symptoms. Dry eyes are also a temporary symptom following LASIK refractive surgery. Insufficient blinking, associated with staring at a computer or video monitor, may also cause dry eye symptoms.
Dry eyes can affect quality of life in a variety of ways. Common complaints or symptoms of dry eye include: stinging or burning, a sandy or foreign body sensation, pain or redness, blurred vision, intolerance to contact lenses, and the inability to read or work on a computer for extended periods of time. Surprisingly enough, eyes that water or tear too much may also be dry. An insuficient or unbalanced tear film can cause the cornea to dry out. This initiates a foreign body sensation, so the eyes are flooded with a “flushing” tear. This tear does not moisturize the eye; it is intended to flush the irritant away.
Dry eyes can be treated in a variety of ways. We usually look at treatment options in three catagories: ways to supplement the insufficient tear level, ways to preserve the tears the eye makes, and ways to improve tear quality and/or production. Artificial tears are an easy way of supplementing tear production. Punctal occlusion, which can be temporary or permanent, keeps the tears on the ocular surface longer. Cyclosporine treatment and omega-3 fats can improve tear quality. Inflammation of the eye surface often accompanies dry eyes. If this occurs, steroidal or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory topical medications may be indicated for short term use.
Dry eyes are common; however, syptoms can often be reduced or eliminated with a proper diagnosis and recommendation of one or more treatment option. See your eye care professional for a complete evaluation.
For an examination at Fry Eye Associates, call 620-275-7248.