Dry Eye Disease
Dry Eye Disease is a condition that causes the surface of the eyes to be dry. It is extremely common with over two thirds of our patients being affected. People suffer a wide range of symptoms from eye irritation and discomfort, to, in extreme cases, depression.
There are two main reasons the eyes become dry, either your eyes are not producing enough tears, Aqueous-Deficiency Dry Eye, or your tears are evaporating more quickly than they should, Evaporative Dry Eye .
Aqueous-Deficiency Dry Eye
Aqueous-Deficiency Dry Eye is dry eye caused by the body not producing enough tears. This may be a result of environmental factors or an auto-immune condition. Environmental factors that exacerbate dry eye include what we think of in the traditional sense: fans, low humidity, and/or dry heat. But, environmental factors also include things like the medications we take. For example, antihistamines, hypertension drugs, anti-depressants, birth control pills, hormone replacement therapies, anti-psychotic medications and chemotherapy drugs all have a direct impact on our ability to produce tears.
Another common factor that contributes to Aqueous-Deficiency Dry Eye is an auto-immune condition. Although most of us are familiar with conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease, there are other auto-immune conditions such as Sjogren's Sydrome, which directly affect the body's ability to create tears and saliva which leads to both dry eyes and dry mouth. All these conditions can be a contributing factor to dry eye.
Although those are the most common environmental factors, the final issue to take into account is eye function. Eye function encompasses issues such as, incomplete blinking, inadequate eye closure at night, and/or eyelid damage which can all contribute to dryness.
Evaporative Dry Eye
Evaporative Dry Eye is caused by a deficiency in the oil layer of tears. Normally, the oil layer is produced by small glands along the top and bottom eyelids that secrete a small amount of oil into the tears each time we blink. If the glands are clogged or absent, then tears on our eyes’ surface evaporate more quickly than they should. This can also happen for a number of reasons: rosacea, damage to the eyelids, acne medications, age, decreased blink rate, and/or heavy eyeliner use.
Dry Eye Symptoms
In actuality, most people have a combination of the two forms of dry eye. Regardless of the cause, Dry Eye Disease can cause the eyes to feel dry, be red, burn, itch, feel like there is something in them, or even water. Although watering eyes seem counter-intuitive to dry eye, it is a response of the watery layer of tears over producing when the oil layer is deficient. Dry eye can even cause fluctuations in vision or consistent blurring depending on the severity. Since Dry Eye Disease often becomes chronic, it is best treated early before there are multiple symptoms present.
There are many options for treatment of Dry Eye Disease, and the treatment needed will vary for each person based on the cause of dryness as well as the severity. In all cases, increasing water intake is the most simple and effective way to increase the amount of tears produced. In very mild forms, over-the-counter artificial tears work as a supplement to normal tears. Prescription medications and oral supplements may be used in more chronic cases of dry eye. Also, for more advanced cases of dry eye, in-office treatments and home medical devices are available.
Dry Eye Disease is very complex and can be very debilitating. If you feel like you may be suffering from the disease, talk to us about it. We will work with you to come up with an individualized plan to best treat your eyes so that you can see better and feel your best!