Dry Eye Syndrome
Defining Dry Eye Syndrome
Dry eye syndrome, also called dry eye disease or dry eye, occurs when people either do not produce enough tears or have an imbalance that prevents tears from adequately coating the eye.
Symptoms of dry eye include:
- Stinging or burning eyes
- Stingy mucus in or around the eyes
- Excessive eye irritation from smoke or wind
- Excess tearing
- Difficulty wearing contact lenses
Normal Tear Film
Without a healthy tear film, proper vision is not possible. There are three layers of the tear film: an oil layer, an aqueous layer, and a mucin layer.
The oil layer, which is the outermost layer, smooths the tear surface and reduces the evaporation rate of tears. The watery, aqueous middle layer cleanses the eye and washes away irritants. The mucin inner layer helps the watery layer spread evenly over the surface of the eye and helps the eye remain moist.
Causes of Dry Eye
Tear production normally decreases as people age. Men and women both are affected by dry eye, however it is most common in women after they reach menopause. Dry eye can also be associated with certain health conditions. Be sure to tell your ophthalmologist the names of all the medications you are taking, especially if you are using diuretics, beta-blockers, antihistamines, sleeping pills, antianxiety medications, and pain relievers.
Diagnosing Dry Eye
Dry eye is diagnosed by a simple eye exam that measures tear production. The Schirmer tear test involves placing filter-paper strips under the lower eyelids to measure the rate of tear production under various conditions. A separate test uses a diagnostic drop to look at certain patterns of dryness on the surface of the eye.
Treating Dry Eye
- • Add moisture to the air in the winter by running a humidifier or placing a pan of water on the radiator in your home.
- • Use wrap-around glasses while riding a motorcycle or bicycle to reduce the drying effect of the wind.
- • Avoid overly warm rooms, hair dryers, or wind.
- • Stop smoking to reduce the incidence of dry eye and scratchiness in the morning.
Eye drops, called artificial tears, supplement your own tears and are available without a prescription. They lubricate the eyes and help maintain moisture. If the patient needs to use artificial tears more than every two hours or is sensitive to the preservatives in artificial tears, preservative-free brands may be a better option.
Conserving Tears (Punctal Plugs)
Tears drain from the ocular surface through a small channel on the inner part of the eyelids into the nose. Conserving tears can be done by temporarily or permanently closing that channel, which will allow tears (real or artificial) to last longer.