What Is Dry Eye and What Can You Do to Avoid It?


October 8, 2023

What Is Dry Eye?

Healthy tears are needed to keep the front of your eyes comfortable, seeing well, and healthy. Our tears are made up of three layers, known as the tear film, which includes the oily outer layer, the watery middle layer, and the inner mucus layer. Every time you blink, the tear film is distributed on your eyes’ front surface. Dry eye syndrome affects the tears that cover the front of your eye. This condition is affected by many conditions, such as older age, environment, medications, and medical conditions.

There are two main types of dry eye syndrome:

Aqueous Deficient Dry Eye

When our tear glands do not produce enough tears to lubricate the eye

Evaporative Dry Eye

Not enough outer oily layer causes the middle water layer to evaporate.

What Are the Symptoms of Dry Eye?

Dry eye syndrome is a very common and chronic problem that most often affects adults. The most common symptoms of dry eye syndrome include:

  • Sharp and/or dull aches
  • Blurred vision
  • Watery eyes
  • Redness
  • Burning or stinging
  • Light sensitivity

What Causes Dry Eye Syndrome?

Dry eye syndrome is caused by many factors. Many people are susceptible to dry eye, but you’re more likely to have dry eye syndrome if you:

  • Are age of 50 years or older
  • Are female
  • Have an autoimmune condition, such as rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s disease, or lupus, to name a few
  • Wear contact lenses for a long period of time
  • Are exposed to environmental conditions such as dry climates, excessive wind or smoke, prolonged computer work, or reading, which decreases your blinking rate

How Do I Get Diagnosed With Dry Eye Syndrome?

Dry eye syndrome can be diagnosed at your annual comprehensive eye examination. Be sure to tell your doctor the symptoms you’re experiencing. Your doctor will:

  • Get details of your symptoms, home and work environments, and your medications and medical history
  • Provide an external and internal examination of your eyes, with emphasis on your tear layer, ocular surface, and eyelids
  • Educate you on their findings and the best course of treatment for your eyes

What Is the Treatment for Dry Eye Syndrome?

Dry eye syndrome is often a chronic condition that requires long-term treatment that should be included in your daily routine. The goal of treatment is to maintain balanced and healthy tears, which in turn improves comfort to your eyes. Treatment strategies include:

  • Using over-the-counter artificial tears to help supplement natural tear production. If artificial tears are used more than four times daily, preservative-free artificial tears should be considered, as preservatives may cause dry eye syndrome themselves.
  • Warm compresses to help release our natural oils to restore the oil layer of our tear film. A healthy oil layer helps prevent evaporative dry eye.
  • Research has shown that natural and supplemental omega-3 fatty acids may help in tear production. In addition, your doctor may prescribe medications to help increase tear production.

Prevention is key! Eating a balanced diet, wearing sunglasses to prevent wind and sun exposure, staying hydrated throughout the day, and supplementing your eyes with artificial tears before you experience symptoms of dry eye all will help reduce the symptoms of dry eye syndrome.

At your next eye exam, be sure to discuss your dry eye symptoms, so your doctor can properly advise you on how to improve those symptoms.

– By Farah O. Gulaid, OD, FAAO | Optometrist, Asst. Professor | Source: WebMed