Dry eye is a condition characterised by the lack of adequate lubrication for the eyes. Tears play an important role in lubricating and nourishing the outer surface (cornea) of the eye. Tears are composed of fatty oils, water, and mucus that keep the eye surface smooth and clear, wash away foreign matter, as well as prevent infection. Affected quality and quantity of the tears may lead to dry eyes.
The symptoms of dry eye can be seen in one or both eyes and may include red eyes, burning and irritation of eyes, eye fatigue, and sensitivity of eye to light. Patients with dry eye may face difficulty in wearing contact lenses and may have blurred vision, especially after prolonged reading or intense watching (e.g. TV).
The common causes responsible for the development of dry eye are:
- Evaporative dry eye: Poor quantity and/or quality of oily tear film, from poor eyelid gland function (Meibomian gland dysfunction).
- Tear-deficiency dry eye: Insufficient tear production after age 50, in postmenopausal woman, in men with low testosterone, in those with medical conditions (Sjogrens disease) or immune diseases affecting tear gland.
- Less blinking of the eyelid, and incomplete closure of eyelids (such as in thyroid eye disease)
- After laser refractive surgery and cataract surgery
- Certain medications such as certain hypertensive drugs, antihistamines, and antidepressants
- Other causes include exposure to dry wind or low humidity, or reading for long time without blinking
Dry eye can be very debilitating when severe. It can sometimes lead to increased risk of eye infection, eye inflammation, corneal scarring and vision problems.
Diagnosis of dry eye involves review of medical history and physical examination of the eyes. Tears production test (Schirmer test) and tear evaporation test (using special dyes) are utilised. Strips of blotting paper are placed under your lower lid for five minutes and measured for the extent to which they are soaked by your tears. A special dye may be instilled into your eyes to view the flow of tears and other surface changes due to dryness, and to assess how quickly your tears break apart before your next natural blinking. In addition, your eyelid and cornea can be evaluated by using bright light and magnification.
The basic approach of treating dry eye is to manage quality and quantity of tears by conserving tears, using artificial tears and increasing tear production. Your doctors at Centre for Eyes has extensive experiences with managing dry eyes. Doctors may help conserve your tears by surgically blocking the tear ducts with tiny temporary or permanent plugs to reduce tear loss. Artificial tears in various forms may be recommended to replace and retain moisture of the eyes. Certain medicated eyedrops and even tablets may be recommended in severe cases.
Some of the basic instructions to reduce symptoms of dry eyes include:
- Blink frequently and take regular small breaks when reading or watching for long periods.
- Maintain adequate humidity in the air at home or workplace
- Wear wrap-around sunglasses to prevent direct exposure to sun and dry wind
- Take nutritional supplements rich in acidsOmega-3 and avoid excessive Omega-6.