Dry Eye Syndrome

 

Dry eye syndrome (DES) is a common disorder of the tear film, affecting a significant percentage of the population, especially those older than 40 years of age and women. 

 

Staining on a dry eyeIf you have DES, you may also experience the following symptoms:

  • Dry, gritty/scratchy, or filmy feeling in the eyes
  • Burning or itching in the eyes
  • Redness of the eyes
  • Blurred vision
  • A sensation of having a foreign body in the eyes
  • Light sensitivity

Symptoms seem to worsen in dry climates, in windy conditions, with higher temperatures, with lower humidity, with prolonged use of your eyes (for example, reading, watching TV, computer usage), and toward the end of the day.  Sometimes a symptom of DES may actually be intermittent excessive tearing. When your eye becomes slightly dry and irritated, it may initiate reflex tearing with production of a large amount of tears all at once to try to get moist and comfortable again. Unfortunately, your eye can only handle so many tears at any one time; the rest pour over your eyelids and down your cheeks.

 

Common causes of dry eyes: 

  1. Aging
  2. Eye Related Causes
  3. Poor lid function
  4. Dry environment or workplace (wind, air conditioning)
  5. Sun exposure
  6. Smoking or second-hand smoke exposure
  7. Cold or allergy medicines
  8. An eye injury or other problem with your eyes or eyelids (like a drooping eyelid or bulging eyes)
  9. Sjogren's syndrome -- includes dry eyes, mouth, and mucus membranes, and often rheumatoid arthritis or other joint disorder
  10. Previous eye surgery like lasik
  11. Medications:
  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors used to treat high blood pressure
  • Antihistamines and decongestants
  • Birth control pills
  • Certain antidepressants
  • Diuretics, drugs commonly used to treat high blood pressure
  • Isotretinoin-type drugs for treatment of acne
  • Opiate-based pain relievers, such as morphine
  • Sleeping pills

 

Complications

 

Most people with dry eyes don't experience any long-term complications. However, if left untreated, severe dry eyes may lead to eye inflammation, infection and scarring on the surface of your cornea.

 

Treatments and Drugs

 

Treatment of dry eyes aims to restore a more normal tear film to minimize your dryness, blurred vision and discomfort. People with mild dry eyes respond well to treatment with artificial tears. Some people have persistent symptoms and don't respond to artificial tears alone even though their eyes appear fairly normal. Severe dry eyes require more aggressive treatment, such as the silicone plugs. Managing lid problems. If you have an eyelid condition, such as an anatomic abnormality or an incomplete blink, or blepharitis that aggravates your dry eyes, your eye care specialist will treat this first. Adding tears. Your eye care specialist can suggest which drops might be best for you. Conserving tears.  Depending upon the severity of your dry eye, your eye care specialist may also suggest methods to keep your natural tears around longer. Other medications: Depending upon the severity of your dry eye.