Most people will tell you that they have no problem shedding tears when they are upset but a small percentage of the population are unable to create tears. These people suffer from a condition known as dry eye syndrome. Dry eye is a condition that causes your eyes to feel as though there is an irritant present. The cause for this irritation is that the eyes are not producing the required fluid that needs to be covering the eyes. Normal healthy eyes are being continuously cover by a thin tear film. This film allows people to be able to see more clearly. Treatment of dry eyes aims to restore a more normal tear film to minimize your dryness, blurred vision and irritations.
Persistent irritations to one or both of your eyes might be a cause of dry eye(s). A decreased tolerance to contact lenses is a common symptom as well. Symptoms do vary from patient to patient when it comes to dry eyes. Most patients say they suffer from the feeling that there is something in their eye that is unobtainable to get out. If you have any of the following symptoms listed, you may be suffering from dry eye.
- Scratchy and burning feeling in the eyes
- Heightened sensitivity to smoke or wind in the eyes
- Light sensitivity
- Decreased vision
- Tired eyes from reading or trying to focus on an object
- Becoming immune to contact lenses
Dry eye can be caused by multiple different variables. The quality of the tear film is directly related to the quality of tears that your eyes are producing. The tear film is made up of three separate layers: Oils containing lipids act as the outer layer, water is the thickest layer and is in the middle, and the last layer is the inner layer of Mucus which allows the tears to spread evenly over the eye. The lack of tear production can also lead to Dry Eyes in the later stages of life. Decreases in tear production may be a result of a LASIK procedure. Having trouble blinking may cause your eyes to dry. Environmental factors such as wind, pollution, sun, and dry air inside homes or offices definitely affect the eyes, but especially in a patient with dry eyes. Patients usually do not produce enough natural tears to offset these and other environmental irritants.
If you feel as though you may be suffering from Dry Eye you may seek to have your eyes tested. Your eye doctor will ask you a series of questions about your lifestyle, work and home environments, work requirements, and even nutrition habits so that they can begin to make a general assessment. Often he or she will measure your tear volume or tear production using one of several tests. These tests may include the “Schimers Tear Test” which a strip is placed under your eyelids to see how much tears are absorbed. Other tests include a series of dyes to determine the surface conditions of your eyes and to determine how long it takes for your eyes to evaporate the tears. These tests determine the degree of dryness and the location of the dryness on the eyes.
Traditional treatment for dry eye may include lubricating eye drops, thicker eye ointments, punctal plugs, LipiFlow® treatment, or even suggesting lifestyle changes. Traditional treatments often treat the symptoms and some patients do get relief from these simple treatments. However, the traditional treatment does not address abnormal tear quality or composition, health of the ocular surface and lacrimal gland, or underlying disease process. Everyday studies are being done to help improve the lives of people with dry eyes.