Dry eye is a common condition, with over 5% of Americans complaining of some form of dry eye. In fact, over three millions cases are treated in the United States each year. If you wear contact lenses or have had refractive surgery such as LASIK, you’re even more likely to have dry eye. We also see many patients with diabetes and arthritis where the underlying disease and the medications required to treat the disease cause dry eye.
What Is Dry Eye?
Dry eye happens when you don’t have sufficient tears, or have poorly made tears, to lubricate the eyes and the eyelid. Without the cleansing and lubrication of tears, you may experience a feeling of grit or debris in your eyes, blurred vision, tired eyes, and sensitivity to light. Your eyes may become reddened and inflamed over time. In the extreme, dry eye can cause increased eye infections and even scarring of the cornea.
What Causes Dry Eye?
Many diseases and disorders of the eye as well as side effects of medication can cause dry eye. Dry eye happens when too few tears are produced or when the evaporation of tears takes place too quickly.
Tears are not just salt water. They are made of three different substances: mucin, water, and oil. These substances are designed to work together to lubricate and clean your eyes and eyelids.
- Mucin and water: The mucin, or mucous, layer lies just above the eye surface and helps the water of the tear spread evenly across the entire eye surface quickly and with each blink of the eyelid.
- Oil: The oil portion floats above the tear layer and not only helps lubricate blinking, but actively slows down the rate of evaporation of tears from the eyes.
Any interruption in these layers or their proportions can result in dry eye.
What Treatments Are Available for Dry Eye?
Dry eye treatment can consist of adding tears to the eye with over-the-counter tear drops, gels, or ointments; oral prescription medication that will increase tear production; and even Omega-3 and other nutritional supplements can help.
Sometimes surgery is also an option. One type of surgery, in a temporary or a permanent form, actually plugs up the tear ducts so that tears cannot drain back into the body.
Dr. Malone will discuss treatment options with you that depend upon how seriously the problem is affecting your life. In addition, he can help identify possible underlying health conditions that may be leading to your dry eye symptoms.
Ask Dr. Malone today how you can begin treating your dry eye condition.