What is Dry Eye Syndrome?
Normally there is a thin film of tears that coats our eyes so that our eyes remain at ease and to have an optimal vision. The tear film of our eyes is composed of three main layers which are the following:
- The innermost layer is a layer of mucus. It is considered the thinnest of all layers. The mucus is made by the cells of the clear skin that lines the eye called conjunctiva. The mucus aids the top watery layer to evenly spread on the eye.
- The aqueous layer or the middle layer is considered the biggest and the thickest. This is composed of an extremely thin sea water solution. The watery layer is composed of the lacrimal and the accessory tear glands. The purpose of this layer is to moisten the eye and keep it comfortable. It also helps to flush out any debris, dust or foreign objects that may get inside your eye. Deformities in the aqueous layer are the most usual reason of dry eye syndrome known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca or KCS.
- The outermost layer is a very thin layer made of fats. These fats are made by the meibomian glands and the Zeis glands. The purpose of this layer is to help reduce evaporation of the watery layer underneath it.
Dry Eye Syndrome known as DES is a typical problem of the tear film, involving a vital percentage of the population, particularly those who are above 40 years old. The approximate number of people who have DES spans from 25 to 30 million in the US. All over the world the incidence rate nearly equals that of US. DES can involve any descent and is more typical in women than in men.
Symptoms & Signs
People suffering from DES may have the following symptoms and signs:
- Dry eyes
- Itchy eyes that you wanted to scratch
- Filmy sensation in the eyes
- Burning in the eyes
- Hazy or blurred eyesight
- Redness in the eyes
- A feeling that there is something in the eyes
- Sensitivity to light
Symptoms may worsen during dry climates, windy conditions, increased temperatures, decreased humidity, using your eyes for a long period of time such as reading, watching TV, etc. and toward the last part of the day.
Dry eye syndrome is a typical problem of the tear film and one of the causes may be one of the following:
- Reduced amount of tears produced caused by aging, hormonal imbalances or certain autoimmune disorders. It can also be linked to use of medications like antihistamines, antidepressants, beta-blockers and oral contraceptive pills.
- Extreme evaporation of tears maybe caused by inadequate above lying fat layer.
- Abnormal production of fats or mucus typically located in the tear layer.
- It can also be due to decreased blinking (can be brought about by reading, watching TV or any activity that needs close attention with your eyes) or if the eyelids are unable to close (can be brought about by stroke or Bell’s palsy). Eventually the eyes will dry out due to evaporation of tears.
- Unusual production of the mucus in the conjunctiva may happen as a result from chemical burns to the eyes. It can also be brought about by autoimmune disorders like Stevens – Johnson syndrome and cicatrial pemphigoid.
- This unusual production of mucus results to reduced dispersion of the tears above the eye’s surface. The exterior of the eye can dry out and even become injured, even if plenty of watery tears may be there.
- Inadequate fat layers brought about by meibomian gland impairment caused by using Isotretinoin medications.
- DES is a constant problem that may not be fully treatable based on the origin. However, the symptoms of DES can be controlled. Your eye care specialist may give artificial tears. Artificial tears are eye drops or eye lubricants that may ease the dry and scratchy sensation.
- Eye drops called Restasis (Allergan) facilitate production of more tears by diminishing swelling brought by dry eye syndrome.
- Another alternative is the used of Lacrisert. It is a small insert that have a lubricating agent called hydroxypropyl cellulose. It will be placed inside the lower eyelid, where it constantly emits lubrication for the whole day.
- At times people make use of eye drops that promotes that they can get the red out to manage dry eyes. Whereas these drops can decrease or stop eye redness in a short period of time they may or may not be successful at eye lubrication based on the formula.
- Also, the vasoconstrictors in the drug formula that decreases redness by constricting the blood vessels of the eyes are addicting. Therefore as time goes on more is required to gain the similar result. With usual use the effectiveness of the drugs reduces after time and the blood vessels merely won’t contract as much as they have when they are first applied.
- If you have contact lenses, be conscious that various eye drops particularly artificial tears cannot be applied while you are still wearing your contact lenses. You will have to take them out prior to applying the drops and wait for fifteen minutes or longer before you wear the lenses again.
- If you have mild eye dryness, re-wetting your contact lenses may be enough to make it better, but typically the relief is short-lived.
- It is also good to wear sunglasses when going out to decrease contact to sun, wind and dust. If it is winter wear goggles when going outside to protect your eyes from cold temperature that may cause dryness.
- If you are inside your home an air cleaner can help filter the dust from the air. You can also use a humidifier to add moisture. Air conditioning or heating can cause the air to become dry.
- You can also eat foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids because they can reduce the symptoms. Cold water fish like sardines, cod, herring and salmon are excellent sources of omega-3.
- You can also drink more water because mild dehydration usually makes the symptoms worse. This is indeed true for the period of hot, dry, and windy weather condition. Merely drinking water can alleviate the symptoms.
- If the DES is brought about by the side effects of the drugs usually discontinuing the medication solves the DES. Your doctor might give you another drug or he may give you a medication that can treat the DES while you’re on such medication.
- In cases of blepharitis, an antibiotic or steroid eye drops can help treat the blepharitis. You can also be prescribed of an antibacterial shampoo that you can apply as an eyelid scrub.
- If this is brought about by contact lens, your eye care specialist may switch you to a different brand of contact lens or restrict you to particular hours in wearing a contact lens.