Dry Eye Specialist

Dry eye, also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca, is a common eye condition that occurs when there is a problem with tears either in quality or quantity. In dry eye conditions, the eyes may feel scratchy, itchy, or uncomfortable.

You may also experience blurred vision, redness, and a burning sensation in the eyes. It can be caused by various factors such as age, hormonal changes, autoimmune diseases, medication, environmental factors, and chronic diseases.

Treatment for dry eye conditions depends on the severity of the symptoms and underlying causes. It may include the use of artificial tears, anti-inflammatory medications, lifestyle changes such as wearing protective glasses, blinking exercises, and avoiding irritants such as smoke and wind.

Medical procedures such as punctual plugs or surgery may be considered in severe cases.

Causes of Dry Eye

Dry eye is a common eye condition that affects people of all ages but is more prevalent in individuals over 50.

Aside from the age factor, dry eye can also arise from certain medications, medical conditions or injuries. Women are more prone to the dry eye than men because of the hormonal changes they undergo during pregnancy and menopause. Even taking oral contraceptives can affect the consistency of tears.

But what are the other causes of dry eye? Here are some factors that can contribute to dry eye:

  • Antihistamines, decongestants, and blood-pressure medications can limit the production of tears, leading to dry eye.
  • Autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and thyroid disease can cause inflammation that affects tear production.
  • Sjögren’s syndrome, a condition that causes dry mouth and eyes, is a common cause of dry eye.
  • Environmental conditions like smoke, wind, or excess sun exposure can cause dry eye.
  • Wearing contact lenses for too long can cause dryness and irritation.
  • Eye injury or surgeries can disrupt tear film production, causing dry eye.
  • Inflammation of the eye from conjunctivitis or keratitis can cause temporary or chronic dry eye.

Any of these factors alone or in combination can affect the consistency or frequency of tears, which can lead to dry eye.

Symptoms

One of the reasons dry eye is difficult to detect is that it occurs gradually over time. People often blame age for their symptoms, thinking it’s a normal part of getting older.

But the dry eye can also be caused by medication, medical conditions, or environmental factors. Thus, it’s important to be aware of the symptoms of dry eye:

  • Stinging, burning, or scratchy sensations are the most common symptoms of dry eye. If you feel like there’s sand or an object in your eye, or your eyes feel sore or fatigued, you might have dry eyes.
  • Eye fatigue is a common symptom of dry eye. Eye strain can be caused by excessive reading, computer use, or other activities that require visual concentration.
  • Sensitivity to light can also be a symptom of dry eye, as light can exacerbate the discomfort caused by dryness.
  • Difficulty wearing contact lenses can be a result of dry-eye symptoms. Dryness and irritation can make it challenging to wear contact lenses comfortably.
  • Excessive tearing can also be a sign of dry eye. When eyes are dry, the body may respond by producing more tears. However, these tears are of poor quality and cannot lubricate the eyes.
  • Blurry vision can also indicate dry eye. Over time, dry eyes can damage the surface of the eyes, causing tiny abrasions that can impair vision.

Preventive measures

A dry eye can be caused by various factors such as aging, hormonal changes, medication, and medical conditions. However, some lifestyle modifications can help prevent dry-eye symptoms. Here are some of them:

  1. Wear Protective Glasses
    Exposure to windy or dry environments can cause dry eye. Wear protective glasses to shield your eyes from wind, dust, or other irritants.

  2. Take Breaks from Intense Focus
    Whether you’re working or watching TV, prolonged periods of visual concentration can lead to dry eye, as the blink rate decreases. Remember to take frequent breaks to blink and rest your eyes. The 20-20-20 rule says that every 20 minutes of screen time, you should look away at something at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.

  3. Avoid Smoking
    Smoking damages blood vessels in the eyes, which can cause dry eye symptoms, and also contributes to other eye diseases. Quit smoking for better eye health.

  4. Stay Hydrated
    Drinking adequate water and other fluids helps maintain a healthy tear film that lubricates and moistens the eyes.

  5. Blink More Often
    Blinking is essential in spreading tear film across the eyes’ surfaces. Consider using a reminder to blink frequently, especially when working on a screen or other tasks that require intense focus.

  6. Adjust the Environment
    Environmental conditions can make dry-eye symptoms worse. Consider using a humidifier to add moisture to the air, and adjusting screen brightness, and distance from the eyes. Reduce the speed of your ceiling fan, or discontinue use entirely, even while you are sleeping.

  7. Take Care of Contact Lenses
    Clean and replace contact lenses as directed. Wearing contact lenses for too long can cause irritation and dryness.

Treatment

Dry eye is a common eye condition that can cause discomfort if left untreated. Treatment for dry eye depends on its underlying cause and severity, as well as the patient’s overall health and personal preference. While mild cases can often be relieved through nonsurgical methods, more severe cases may require surgical intervention.

Nonsurgical Treatments:

  • Deliberately Blinking: People who work on computers or screens may blink less frequently, leading to dry eyes. Deliberately blinking can help moisturize eyes.
  • Increasing Humidity Levels: Dry environments can exacerbate dry eye symptoms. Increasing humidity levels at home or work can help keep the eyes moist.
  • Using Artificial Tears or Lubricating Ointments: Artificial tears or lubricating ointments can help to soothe dry eye symptoms.
  • Avoiding Environmental Irritants: Smoke, wind, and other irritants can exacerbate dry eye symptoms, so it’s best to avoid them or wear protective glasses.
  • Eliminating Medications: Certain medications can cause dry eye, so your doctor may prescribe an alternative or adjust the dosage.
  • Adding Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Adding Omega-3 fatty acids to the diet or taking supplements can alleviate dry eye symptoms.

Simple lifestyle changes can often alleviate dry-eye symptoms.

Surgical Treatments:
For severe cases, when nonsurgical treatment options haven’t worked, surgical treatments are recommended. Here are the surgical treatment options for dry eye:

  • Punctal Plugs: These tiny silicone or collagen plugs are inserted into the tear duct to limit tear drainage, thus increasing tear retention on the eye’s surface.
  • Punctal Cautery: This is a simple outpatient procedure that permanently closes the tear duct openings, increasing tear retention.
  • Treatment of Underlying Diseases: An underlying disease that may be causing dry eye like an autoimmune disease can be treated to restore tear production.
  • Eyelid Surgery: If dry eye is caused by a problem with the eyelids, eyelid surgery may be recommended.

If left untreated, dry eye can lead to complications like corneal ulcers or scars, pain, and even vision loss. It’s essential to seek a doctor’s attention if you’re experiencing dry eye symptoms. They can help determine the cause of your dry eye and recommend a treatment that’s right for you.

Management of Dry Eye

Dry eye is a common condition that can cause discomfort, irritation, and even vision loss if left untreated. While there is no cure for dry eye, the condition can be managed effectively by following these tips and strategies:

  1. Attend Regular Eye Exams: Regular eye exams can help diagnose dry eye early, identify underlying conditions, and help you manage the condition effectively.

  2. Avoid Environmental Irritants: Environmental irritants, such as wind, smoke, and pollen, can aggravate dry eye symptoms. Avoid exposure to these irritants or use protective eyewear.

  3. Stay Hydrated: Drinking at least eight glasses of water per day can help keep your body, particularly your eyes, hydrated.

  4. Follow a Balanced Diet: A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids or taking supplements can help reduce inflammation and improve tear production.

  5. Reduce Screen Time: Limit your screen time or use computer glasses to reduce the risk of digital eye strain and aggravating dry eye symptoms.

  6. Blink Frequently: Blinking often helps to spread the tears across the eye’s surface and reduce dry eye symptoms.

  7. Consider Prescription Medication: Prescription medication can be an effective treatment option for those with moderate to severe dry eye symptoms.

  8. Surgical Options: In severe cases, surgery such as punctual plugs or cautery may be considered.
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