Dry Eye Syndrome: What You Need to Know
Dry eye syndrome is the most common eye condition. It can be a chronic problem, occurring most frequently in older adults. Dry eye syndrome is a condition in which your tears do not provide adequate lubrication for a healthy eye environment. Individuals with dry eyes may have had a tear deficiency or their tears may not be of high enough quality. One out of five (or nearly 59 million Americans) suffers from this condition. Dry eyes can feel uncomfortable and irritated and may sting or even burn. Alternatively, dry eye sufferers may experience watery eyes, or “wet eye,” which occurs when tear glands overproduce water or reflex reserve tears to offset the lack of moisture balance. Left untreated, severe dry eye can damage tissue and even scar the cornea of the eye which may lead to irreversible vision injury or loss.
What Is Dry Eye Syndrome?
The eye is constantly balancing its moisture level through the loss of tears through drainage and evaporation and the production of tears to replace this moisture loss. When this balance is not maintained dry patches can develop on the surface of the eye and cause irritation.
Tears, the liquid produced by glands in and around the eyelids, provide lubrication, lessen the risk of eye infection, and ride the eye of foreign matter. The production of tears decreases with age, various medical conditions or even as a result of the side effects of certain medications. Tears consist of three layers of oil, water and mucus and each layer plays an important role in the proper function of tears. The most common form of dry eye is caused by an inadequate layer of water in the tear. This is called keratoconjunctivitis sick (KCS) or dry eye syndrome.
What Are the Symptoms, Causes & Risk Factors of Dry Eye Syndrome?
Dry eye is caused by men and women of any age may experience dry eye syndrome, though there are certain risk factors that can add to the possibility of developing dry eye syndrome. Age is the single most prominent risk factor for dry eye and affects nearly 75 percent of individuals over the age of 65.
Dry eye syndrome can be caused or exacerbated by several factors:
- Hormonal changes due to pregnancy, lactation, oral contraceptives, menstruation and menopause
- Diseases and the treatment for these diseases are often associated with dry eye including, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, thyroid issues, asthma, glaucoma, lupus and rosacea
- Medications such as anti-depressants, decongestants, antihistamines, blood pressure medications, oral contraceptives, diuretics, and other medications
- Environmental conditions like exposure to air pollution, wind, indoor heating or air conditioning, and dry climates
- Prolonged use of computers which encourages less frequent eye blinking
Dry eye is the leading cause of irritation and discomfort in contact lens wearers. Soft contacts quickly evaporate tears from the eye which can cause irritation, protein deposits, pain and even infection.
What to Expect from Diagnosis and Screening for Dry Eye Syndrome
Dry eye syndrome is diagnosed during a comprehensive eye examination. During this exam, an evaluation may be taken of the quantity and quality of tears produced by the glands in and around the eye. Your eye care professional may take your health history in order to determine what is causing or contributing to your dry eye.
What Are the Medications and Treatments for Dry Eye Syndrome?
Dry eye syndrome is chronic and cannot be cured. However, the symptoms of dry eye can be relieved and any chances of accompanying complications can be greatly reduced. Treatment includes the conservation and/or the replacement of tears in order to alleviate the discomfort of the dryness and irritation. This treatment may either be temporary or long term depending on the underlying cause of your dry eye syndrome.
How Tucker & Associates Can Help
If you suffer from chronic dry, irritated eyes, call Tucker & Associates for an appointment today. Our eye care professionals will take a comprehensive look at your eye and eye health in order to help discern the best course of action for your dry eye and eye health needs.