You may not have heard of dry eyes or dry eye syndrome, but there is a good chance that you have experienced it at some point during your lifetime. Unsurprisingly, the defining characteristic of the condition is dry, stiff-feeling eyes that can be uncomfortable and even compromise your vision a little. It may be a particularly serious condition, but if you are someone who experiences it regularly, it can have an effect on your day to day life.
Here’s what you need to know about dry eye syndrome, what causes it and how it can be treated so that you can carry on living your life without interruption.
Our eyes rely on our bodies making enough natural tear film for them to be healthy and functioning properly. The tear film is a complex mixture of water, oil, and protein and is produced by special glands located within each eye. If the production of the tear film is compromised, or if the tear film drains from the eyes too quickly, you may find that you begin to suffer from dry eye syndrome.
Exactly why some patients develop dry eye syndrome and others don’t is often never fully realized. However, there are some things that increase your risk of developing dry eyes. These include:
Being over the age of 65.
Being pregnant or having any sort of hormonal imbalance.
Taking certain medications that list dry eyes as a side effect, which include some common medications prescribed to treat high blood pressure and depression
Having near-sighted (myopic)
Spending a lot of time looking at computer screens
Working in a dusty, dry or heated environment
Being diagnosed with blepharitis, collagen vascular disease or other diseases that affect the eyes
Dry eyes may be the symptom most commonly associated with the condition, but it isn’t the only one. Others include:
Soreness of the eyes
Eyes that seem red
Itchiness and irritation in and around the eyes
Feeling like you need to open your eyes wide to ‘stretch’ them
Excessive watering, which is an automatic response by your body to counteract the dryness
If you have been diagnosed with dry eye syndrome, you will have the option of a variety of different treatments. This will include making some changes at home – such as reducing your screen time or moving your desk away from the air-conditioning unit at work – as well as some treatments that can only be prescribed by a professional.
Eyedrops are usually one of the first treatments that may be recommended by your eye doctor. There are several different types available and it is often a case of trial and error to find the variety that is most effective for each patient. Be sure to apply them exactly as directed for the best results. Some of the eye drops that you may be given to try could include:
Artificial tears, which lubricate the surface of the eye.
Restasis, which in addition to lubricating your eyes also contains an agent that helps combat inflammation.
Steroid eye drops, which again can be used alongside artificial tears. These can only be used for a short time since steroids have the potential of causing side effects.
A punctual plus is a small, sterile device that is placed into the openings of tear drainage ducts in the inner corners of the upper and lower eyelids. Their purpose is to stop tear film from draining so quickly, keeping it on the surface of your eyes so that they remain properly lubricated.
Many cases of dry eyes are caused by there being insufficient oil being added into the tear film that we produce. This naturally occurring oil is produced by the meibomian glands which are located along the margins of the eyelids. When the glands become clogged, the oil cannot get into the tear film to prevent it from evaporating too quickly. Meibomian gland expression is a short, simple procedure that is designed to clear any blockages from the gland so that oil can flow freely. The process involves warming the glands with a warm compress, then squeezing them so that blockages are removed. It can be a little uncomfortable, but it is highly effective. A topical anesthetic may be applied if necessary.
If you think that you are suffering from dry eyes and you would like more advice and support, please contact our expert eye care team at Seabert Eye Care in Burleson, TX today. We’d be happy to help!