What is Dry Eye?
Dry eye is a condition where a person doesn’t have enough quality tears to lubricate and nourish the eye.
Dry Eye is when the tears that coat the surface of the eye are inadequate. Dry Eye does not necessarily mean that the eye is dry. In fact, you can still have dry eye with tears streaming down your cheeks! Dry eye just means the quality of the tear film is poor. This can mean the tears are too watery – which causes them to run down your cheeks – or alternatively, tear production may be reduced.
The tear film plays a vital role in providing nutrients to the front of the eye, in clearing the eye of dust and pollutants and providing clear vision. Without treatment, dry eye can lead to chronic irritation, inflammation, recurrent infections, and impaired vision.
Common symptoms of dry eye include:
- irritation – gritty, sandy, burning, stinging, itchy
- inflammation – red eyes
- watery eyes
- eye fatigue – heavy eyes, wanting to close eyes for relief
- light sensitivity
- blurry vision
- sticky eyes, particularly of a morning
- crustiness around the base of the eyelashes
Some of the common causes for dry eye include:
- contact lenses
- environmental – such as air conditioning, computer screens, dusty environments or low humidity
- medical conditions – such as arthritis, auto-immune diseases, sjogren’s syndrome and rosacea
- hormonal changes – often the cause of dry eye in post-menopausal women.
- eye problems – such as blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelid margins) floppy lids, and poor blinking habits
- medications – such as antihistamines, birth control pills, antidepressants, blood pressure medication
Interestingly, dry eye has become much more prevalent in the last decade. Is this due to dietary changes? Or is it a result of the extra time we spend these days in front of screen based technology? The exact reason is still unknown; however, what we do know is that dry eye has become extremely common in today’s society, and it reduces the quality of life for those who are unlucky enough to have it.
Dry eye can range from occasional mild irritation, to constant debilitating discomfort. The mild forms of dry eye can often be relieved with the occasional use of artificial tears. The more severe, chronic forms of dry eye will usually need more than just drops. In fact, often using more and more drops can make things worse as they will wash away the essential nutrients that your natural tear film provides. Treatment may include:
- targeted ocular lubricants
- dietary changes and supplements, including Omega-3’s
- natural antibiotics and anti-inflammatories, such as Manuka Honey
- prescription medication (drops and tablets)
- lid hygiene, including treatment for demodex
- lid procedures including; treatment and expression of the oil producing glands in the lid (for Meibomian Gland Dysfunction) and BlephEx for treatment of blepharitis.
- tear duct plugs
Dry eye can be a chronic condition for which there is no absolute cure. However, a comprehensive dry eye assessment and targeted treatment can successfully manage the condition so that your eyes remain clear and comfortable each day.
Hansen Optometrists run a comprehensive dry eye clinic with Justin Clunas.