Dry eye syndrome is one of the most common of all eye conditions. Our eyes rely on a sufficient amount of tear film in order to stay healthy and be able to move comfortably. Tear film provides lubrication, reduce the risk of eye infections, wash away any microorganisms, and keep the surface of the eye smooth. However, tear film is more than just water. It is actually a complex blend of water, oils and proteins, produced by glands founds around the eyes. When we blink, it triggers tear film to be distributed across the surface of the eye – an area called the cornea. Any excess tear film then drains away in the back of the nose via ducts found in the inner corners of the eyelids. This is why people who are crying usually develop a runny nose.
Patients with dry eye syndrome either:
- Do not produce enough tear film
- Produce tear film that is poor quality
- Have tear film that drains too quickly
Dry eye syndrome can develop for a variety of reasons. Some of the most common causes of the condition, or factors that make it more likely to affect you, include:
- Being over the age of 65, since dry eyes are part of the natural aging process.
- Being female, particularly if you are pregnant, taking oral contraceptives or going through the menopause since fluctuations in hormones can cause dry eyes.
- Having certain medical conditions. There are some medical conditions that make someone more likely to experience dry eye syndrome. These include diabetes, thyroid problems, blepharitis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Taking specific medications. Dry eyes are listed as a known side effect on some specific medications, including some antidepressants, blood pressure medications, decongestants, and antihistamines.
- Being exposed to very dry, dusty or smoky environments.
- Spending a lot of time staring at a computer or other digital screen.
- Long-term use of contact lenses.
- Having undergone LASIK laser eye surgery.
Aside from eyes that feel dry, stiff, and uncomfortable, there are a number of other symptoms of the condition. These include blurred vision, redness, stringy mucus, eye fatigue and burning, itching, or stinging sensations. If you experience any of these, or any other issues affecting your eyes, it is important that you speak to your eye doctor to schedule an appointment as soon as possible.
Every patient with dry eye syndrome may be affected slightly differently by the condition. Many will experience symptoms for just a few weeks or months, and these may disappear by themselves or they may require medication to help overcome them. Once they have gone, there is every chance that they won’t return. However, some patients suffer from chronic dry eyes that require ongoing management to keep their symptoms under control, meaning that it is never completely curable.
There is a wide range of different treatments that can help patients to find relief from the symptoms of dry eye syndrome. Your eye doctor will talk you through the various options, which range from eye drops and warm compresses to technology-based solutions such as thermal pulsation and laser treatment, to help you find the variety that is most effective for you.
If you have further questions about dry eye syndrome, or if you would like to schedule an appointment with our experienced and knowledgeable team, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.