Dry Eye Syndrome, medically known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca, is a very common eye condition experienced by people of all ages. In its most basic form, Dry Eye Syndrome occurs because the tear glands either do not produce enough moisture for the eye or produce tears of poor quality. This, in turn, leads to decreased levels of moisture and lubrication for the eye.
The Importance of Tears
Tears are needed to lubricate and protect the surface of the eye. They are like a natural eye wash to cleanse the eye and to allow the eyelids to slide effortlessly over the eye’s surface or cornea. When too few tears are produced there is inadequate lubrication and hydration for the eye. Rapid drainage of the tears from the eye’s surface can also cause problems with Dry Eye.
Tears are actually made up of three different components. The outer layer of the tear is oil, which prevents the tears from simply evaporating off of the surface of the eye. The second layer is water, which provides the hydration to the eye’s surface to prevent it from becoming dry or irritated. The inner layer or component of the tear is a very thin mucus layer that ensures that the tears will spread over the entire surface area.
If any of these layers are out of balance and not corrected then the poor quality of tears will lead to difficulties with vision over time. Dry Eye Syndrome is most often caused when the water layer of the tears is insufficient.
Common Traits of Dry Eye Syndrom
Dry Eye Syndrome is frequently diagnosed in adults, particularly women. The syndrome is often more prevalent among people that live in very dry and windy areas and those that are frequently smoky environments.
There is also a link between Dry Eye Syndrome and specific medical conditions such as diabetes, chronic eye infections and people with thyroid conditions.
Symptoms Of Dry Eye Syndrome:
- Gritty or scratchy feeling to the surface of the eye
- Blurred vision
- Sensations that there is a foreign object in the eye
- Excessive tearing or watering of the eyes
- Burning or irritation over the entire eye surface
It is important to realize that this condition is more than just irritating; it can have a serious long-term impact on your vision.
Management Of Dry Eye Syndrome
The most commonly prescribed treatment and management options include:
- Nutritional supplements – recent research indicates that supplements, including Omega-3 fatty acids can help with tear quality and production. In addition medicated eye drops, available by prescription only, can help support natural tear generation.
- Blocking tear ducts – this is done with a very tiny gel plugs that prevent the tears from being drained out of the eye. This helps to keep the natural tears on the eyes surface for longer, providing the lubrication needed.
- Reducing inflammation – antibiotics and prescription eye drops combined with eye-washes and rinses can minimize any infection or inflammation and promote normal tear gland functioning.
Working with your optometrist is an important first step in treating Dry Eye Syndrome. While you may be able to use an over-the-counter (OTC) artificial tear solution this may not be the most effective measure.