Dry eye syndrome is a condition caused by a lack of moisture or lubrication in the eye. It typically affects adults, with incidence increasing with age and can progress in severity if not treated. However, several remedies do exist to treat dry eye syndrome and to provide relief. It’s important to understand the most common causes and symptoms of the condition, and to seek treatment in a timely fashion from an eye care specialist if these symptoms are experienced. Symptoms of Dry Eye Include:
- Itchy eyes
- Burning sensation
- Fatigued eyes
- Sore, red eyes
- Light sensitivity
- Fluctuating or intermittent blurred vision
For the eyes to be healthy and to function properly, they require an adequate and consistent layer of tears on the surface. A healthy tear film is made up of 3 components: an oily component to prevent the tears from evaporating, a watery or aqueous component that makes up the bulk and middle layer of the tear film, and a mucus-like component (called mucin) that helps spreads the tears across the surface of the eye. Each of these components are produced from different sources in the eye. Disruption or deficiency in any of these tear layers can result in one to experience the symptoms of dry eyes. Beyond these fundamental causes, there are various factors that can significantly increase the risk of dry eye syndrome. Some of these factors include:
- Device usage: When looking at electronic screens, individuals tend to blink less, leading to greater tear evaporation and experience of dry eye symptoms.
- Age: Dry eye syndrome occurs much more commonly at an older age, especially after the age of 50. This is particularly true for women in menopause, who experience a higher incidence of the condition than that of men of the same age.
- External environment: The conditions of the environment that you’re in can increase the risk of experiencing dry eye symptoms. The conditions that have the greatest impact on perpetuating dry eye symptoms include being around air conditioning, fans or heating; environments with dry climates or windy conditions and dusty environments.
- Medication: Many prescription and nonprescription medicines can increase the risk of dry eye symptoms — including antihistamines, anti-depressants, some blood pressure medications and birth control pills.
Treatment & Relief Options
There are various over the counter as well as prescription options to treat and provide relief for dry eye syndrome. The most common relief option is artificial tears, which is predominantly used to treat mild symptoms caused by reading, computer use, and other situational cases. Artificial tears are over-the-counter remedies, and come in many varieties and viscosity. In general, artificial tears of low viscosity provide quick relief and don’t tend to cause blurring of vision, whereas higher viscosity products provide longer lasting relief but may cause some blurring of vision after application. Your eye doctor can recommend the best options based on the severity and cause of your dry eye.
Beyond over-the-counter remedies are various prescription options, such as Restasis and Xiidra. These remedies often require a longer time to produce their intended effects, although in most cases, they tend to have a strong and durable impact. There are other, non-medicinal options, as well. Punctual plugs, which are sterile devices that are inserted into one of the small openings of tear drainage ducts, can help the tears from draining away into these ducts. A different and less intrusive option is simply using warm compresses, which can help soften the hardened oil or meibum produced by the meibomian glands of the eyelids, promoting better secretion and reducing tear film evaporation. These are just some of the treatment options available. However, your eye doctor is the best source for both diagnosing the condition as well as for outlining the most suitable treatment options for your situation.
In summary, dry eye syndrome is a potentially debilitating condition that should be diagnosed and addressed, starting with a thorough eye health examination with an optometrist or ophthalmologist. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms, or if you’d like to proactively assess your eye health, as should be routinely done, schedule a comprehensive eye exam with Dr. Sciberras today. We are motivated to diagnose and treat eye conditions to preserve our patients’ vision, risk factors and maximize eye comfort.