Dry Eye is an eye condition that results from an imbalance in the quantity or quality of tears bathing the eye. These symptoms include dry, red, gritty, and even watery eyes. Often, people with Dry Eye report foreign body sensation within the eye or eye strain. Some people do not produce enough tears to keep the eye comfortable.
The balance of tear production and tear loss [through drainage and evaporation] maintains the moisture level in the eyes. When this balance is not sustained, dry spots appear on the surface of the eye and cause irritation.
A healthy eye constantly produces tears that lubricate. Excessive tears occur when a foreign body irritates the eye or when a person cries.
The usual symptoms include:
- Stinging or burning sensation.
- Stringy mucus in or around the eyes
- Eye irritation from smoke or wind.
- Excess tearing.
- Difficulty wearing contact lenses.
When the eye is irritated, the lacrimal gland produces a large volume of tears which overwhelms the tear drainage system. These excess tears then overflow from your eye.
There are many causes of dry eye syndrome. The normal aging of tear glands, as well as specific diseases and disorders, may cause changes in the amount and condition of tears produced.
Decreased sensitivity of the cornea can also lead to insufficient production of tears. Some times, contact lens wear can also bring on this lack of sensitivity.
Tears bathe and lubricate the eyes. Each time you blink, a new tear layer forms over the front surface of your eye.
We diagnose dry eye by examining the eyes. Sometimes tests that measure tear production may be necessary. One test, called the Schirmer tear test, involves placing filter-paper strips under the lower eyelids to measure the rate of tear production under various conditions. Another uses a diagnostic dye (fluorescein or Rose Bengal) to look for certain staining patterns.
Depending on the causes, Dry Eye Syndrome can be treated as a temporary problem or a lifelong disease requiring long-term treatment. Either way, tears must be conserved or replaced in order to provide relief.
Adding tears Artificial tears are probably the most common form of treatment for Dry Eye Syndrome. These Eye drops are similar to our own tears. They lubricate the eyes and help maintain moisture. Preservative-free eye drops are available if you are sensitive to the preservatives in artificial tears.
Conserving the tears with Punctal Occlusion In cases of persistent Dry Eye symptoms, permanent, reversible closure of the tear duct or punctal occlusion may be the best solution. Punctal occlusion allows you to retain your own, natural tears without the bother or expense of constantly replacing the tear film with artificial tears. Tears drain out of the eye through a small channel into the nose. We may close these channels either temporarily or permanently. The closure conserves your own tears and makes artificial tears last longer.A person with dry eye should avoid anything that may cause dryness, such as an overly warm room, hair dryers, wind or a direct fan / air conditioner draft. Smoking is especially bothersome . Some people with dry eye complain of “scratchy eyes” when they wake up. Using an artificial tear ointment at bedtime can treat this symptom
Early signs of dry eye are:
- An occasional burning sensation in the eyes when in areas of low humidity or high pollution.
- A gritty sensation in the eyes, which is persistent and painful.
- Decreased tolerance of contact lenses.
- In extreme cases of dry eye, patients may become unusually sensitive to light, experience severe eye pain, or notice diminished vision.