The function of your eyes depends on the moisture produced by your tear ducts. Tears help to keep the eyes clean and clear of foreign bodies, and help to lubricate the eyeballs when you are looking around. Naturally produced tears usually have three layers: an outer oily layer, a watery layer and an inner mucous layer. In turns this balance of composition helps to keep your eyes clean and functioning.
Dry eye syndrome occurs when your eyes do not produce enough tears, or fail to produce tears with the proper chemical composition, which can hamper their overall effectiveness. Dry Eye most is most commonly a result of the natural ageing process; as you get older your eyes tend to become drier. There are other causes of dry eye apart from ageing, including:
- Problems with normal blinking
- Some medical conditions such as arthritis or Sjogren’s disease
- Some medications taken for other medical conditions (such as antihistamines or antidepressants)
- Adverse environmental conditions such as arid climate and / or direct exposure of the eyes to wind
- Burns - in particular chemical burns - to the eye area
The degree of dryness experienced by those suffering with dry eye syndrome often varies from one person to another, which leads to different people encountering different symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms of dry eye can include:
- Irritation and an uncomfortable dryness in the eye region
- Itchy eyes
- Redness of the eyes
- A burning sensation in and around the eyes
- A constant feeling of ‘something in your eye’
- Blurred vision
- A large increase in tear production as the tear ducts work to comfort an overly dry eye
- The eyes lost their normal, clear and glassy luster
If left untreated, these symptoms may become stronger and, in time, will amount to more than mere eye irritation. Excessively dry eyes are more at risk of tissue damage. Also, with fewer tears to keep your eyes clear of foreign bodies (such as sand, dust or grit), there is a heightened risk of scratching your cornea (the clear section at the front of your eye which takes in light to your crystalline lens). If the cornea becomes scarred, it may permanently impede your vision. If you wear contact lenses, you may experience more problems than those who do not as you may be more susceptible to extra irritation as well as a greater risk of infection.
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, you should book an appointment to see us as soon as possible. We can perform tests using highly magnifying diagnostic equipment to evaluate the quality or, and overall amount of tears produced by your eyes. You may be asked about your everyday life, your routines and activities as well as your general health and any medications that you may be taking under prescription. This is so that we can identify the most probable causes of your dry eye which can then aid in treatment.
As current medicine stands, most cases of dry eye syndrome cannot be cured, but treatments can be used to not only lower the sensitivity of your eyes but also to lower the irritation and help you to manage the condition. Depending on your personal circumstances, some treatments may include any of the following:
- Blinking exercises to promote tear production and to spread tears across your eyes
- Changing or eliminating environmental factors - such as avoiding wind and dust and increasing humidity levels at home
- Using tear solutions, ointments or eye drops
- Using moisturising ointments especially at night before bed
- In stronger cases, the insertion of small plugs into the corners of affected eyes to reduce drainage and loss of tears
- In the most extreme cases, surgery may be necessary
Regardless of the treatment you are prescribed, you must be sure to carefully follow all instructions. Dry eye syndrome does not go away on its own, but by following any treatment plan you are given, you can keep your eyes healthy and comfortable whilst protecting your vision.