Dry eye, also known as dry eye syndrome or keratoconjunctivitis sicca, is a chronic condition that can affect your enjoyment of many of life’s pleasures. Reading, driving, watching a movie or wearing contact lenses may all become a struggle as you obsessively blink and rub your eyes throughout the day.
Below, the experienced vision care professionals at Mack Eye Center answer common questions about dry eye.
What is dry eye?
Your tears do more than show emotion. The fine layer of moisture on the surface of your eye protects sensitive tissues, lubricates eye movement and promotes clarity in your vision. This layer is actually comprised of water, oil and mucus, and a deficiency in any of these three can lead to dry eye.
That is why sufferers may, paradoxically, experience watery eyes when they have dry eye syndrome. The oils or lipids secreted by the meibomian glands keep tears from evaporating quickly. When the function of these glands is interrupted, the result is evaporative dry eye. Because the watery surface is constantly dissipating, your eye may increase tear production in response.
What causes it?
Dry eye syndrome can be triggered by a range of environmental causes, including excessive staring at digital screens, air pollution, windy or dry climate, air conditioning, indoor heating and second-hand smoke.
The chance of developing dry eye increases with age; after menopause, women are more likely to experience dry eye. The condition can also be caused by blood pressure medications, birth control pills and certain diseases.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms may include pain or a burning sensation in the eyes, itchiness, redness, light sensitivity and blurred vision. Patients may have a feeling that there is a small particle in the eye. This feeling of grittiness or sandiness is usually caused by dry spots, although corneal injuries can also generate the sensation. Both causes are sometimes related: Severe dry eye can cause perforation of the cornea, technically known as ulceration desiccation of the corneal epithelium. For contact lens wearers, excessive dry eye can also increase the chance of infection.
Is there a solution?
Fortunately, there are many treatment options for those who suffer from dry eye. After evaluating your eyes, your vision care professional at Mack Eye Center will prescribe special eye drops, ointments or gels to keep the surface of your eye lubricated. If the condition persists, other solutions include topical steroids, protective eyewear, punctal plugs and eyelid therapy. Punctal plugs are used to block the pathways that drain tears from your eyes. Eyelid therapy focuses on restoring normal operation of the meibomian glands, ensuring sufficient oils are being produced to lubricate the eye and suppress tear evaporation.
If you would like to know more about dry eye or other conditions that affect eye health and vision, schedule an appointment today at Mack Eye Center, conveniently located in Hoffman Estates.