Do you find that your eyes feel persistently dry, scratchy and uncomfortable? If so, you could be suffering from a common condition called dry eye. Dry eye, which is also referred to as dry eye syndrome and dry eye disease, affects most people at least once during their lifetime. However, a percentage of patients will suffer from chronic dry eye symptoms that require professional treatment in order to alleviate them.
Our eyes need lubrication so that they can move around in their sockets comfortably and help us see the world around us clearly. This lubrication comes in the form of tear film. Many people think that tear film is just water, but in fact, it is a complex blend of oils, water, and proteins that help keep our eyes both comfortable and healthy. When there are problems with the way that the eyes are lubricated, it is possible to develop dry eye.
Dry eye occurs for one of three different reasons. These are:
The tear film is usually held on the surface of the eyes drains too quickly.
The quality of the tear film that our eyes make isn’t quite right, usually as a result of an imbalance in the different elements that go into making it. For example, tear film without sufficient oils can cause dry eye symptoms.
Your eyes are not making enough tear film to keep the eyes lubricated in the first place.
Exactly why any of these things happen can vary between patients. Some people may have a medical condition that is preventing their eyes from producing tear film, while others could be taking medications that cause dry eye to develop. An increasing number of people are developing dry eye as a result of spending too much time looking at a screen, be it a smartphone, tablet, computer or television. Dry environments can also contribute towards the development of dry eye.
While the most obvious symptom of dry eye is eyes that feel dry and uncomfortable, there are some other signs that you may be experiencing this condition. They include:
Redness around the eyes
A feeling as though there is a foreign body trapped in the eyes
Excessive tear production as the body tries to over-compensate for the dryness
Fortunately, there is no need to suffer from the unpleasant effects of dry eye. There are a number of different treatments available. These include the following:
Eye drops will be the first thing that your eye doctor recommends, and for many people, eye drops will be sufficient to give you relief from your symptoms. There are many different types of eye drop available, including those which purely lubricate and others that contain medications such as steroids to ease your discomfort. It is often a case of trying several different varieties in order to find that which works best for you. Be sure to apply them exactly as directed for the best effect.
If your dry eye is caused by a lack of tear film, you may be prescribed medication to increase tear production. These are available as tablets, gels or drops, ensuring there is a variety to suit most patients.
If your dry eye is believed to be caused by the tear film draining too quickly, you may be recommended to try punctual plugs. These are tiny inserts that go into the drainage channel inside the eye to prevent the fluid from escaping too quickly. This keeps lubrication on the surface of the eyes for longer, reducing your symptoms of dry eye.
Sometimes dry eye occurs because the oil glands that help to create tear film become blocked. Warm compresses or eye masks can help to unblock glands. Alternatively, you can try a thermal pulsation device such as Lipiflow which gently massages and heats the glands to clear any obstructions.
If you would like to discover more about dry eye and how it is treated, our expert eye care team would be happy to help. Contact our office today to speak to us or to schedule an appointment.