Dry eye occurs when the eyes are not sufficiently moisturized. This can lead to redness, foreign body sensation, itching, tearing, and pain from the dry areas on the surface of the eye. The eyes may become dry because the tear film evaporates too quickly or because the tears themselves have a chemical imbalance or a combination of both.
People usually begin experiencing dry eye symptoms as they age, but the condition can also result from certain medications, medical conditions, auto-immune diseases, or injuries. Also, any activity that involves concentrating on a task (reading, computer work, sewing and kniting, driving, cross word puzzles) reduces the blink rate and can worsen the condition.
Symptoms of Dry Eye
- Stinging or burning
- Scratchiness or foreign body sensation
- Discomfort when wearing contact lenses
- Fluctuations in vision
- Eye fatigue
- Tearing (to try to over-compensate for the dry eye)
- Dry eye is not only uncomfortable, it can also impair vision and damage the eye’s surface tissues.
Treatment for dry eye
- Lubricating solutions – come in both preservative and non-preservative formulations. They also vary in consistency from watery drops to thicker gels and ointments. They need to be used consistently and frequently to achieve proper results.
- Punctal (tear saver) plugs – are nearly invisible plugs placed in the inner corner of the eyelids. These plugs allow patients to retain more of their own natural tears.
- Eyelid cleaning and massage – a combination of warm compresses, eyelid massage, and gentle cleaning of the eyelids and eyelashes helps increase the oily secretions from the eyelids and improves ocular lubrication.
- Oral medications – various types of medicines (tetracyclines, omega 3 fatty acids) can be used to reduce inflammation and improve the secretion of natural eyelid oils into the tear film
- Restasis – the only FDA approved eye drop that helps improve the chemical composition of the tear film and reduces the inflammatory chemicals that irritate the eye.
- Autologous serum – an advanced technique for severe dry eyes. A small amount of blood is removed from the patient, this is then spun down in a centrifuge, and the remaining serum is used to lubricate the eyes.
- Eyelid surgery – improperly positioned eyelids will result in an inefficient blink. This can contribute to dry eyes, but is readily fixed with eyelid surgery.