What is dry eye?
What is Dry Eye?
The eye has a tear film that coats the eye’s outer layer. New
tears form in several glands located around the eye and keeps the moisture
level in the eye balanced. This protective film is important for eye
comfort and clear vision. Some people do not produce enough lubrication
to keep the eyes wet and comfortable. This condition is known as Dry
Eye and is one of the most common eye complaints.
Causes of Dry Eye
Dry Eye results from a variety of causes, but aging is the single highest
risk factor because the production of tears decreases. Although it occurs
in women and men, post-menopausal women are most affected.
Other causes of dry eye can include:
* Certain illnesses (including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Graves’
disease, diabetes, scleroderma, and Sjogren’s syndrome)
* Hormonal changes in women after menopause and during pregnancy
* Poor blinking habits such as when reading or working for long periods
at a computer screen
* Being in a dry, indoor environment such as one with air conditioning
* Wearing contact lenses
* Certain medications (including tranquilizers, antihistamines, certain
heart medications, diuretics, birth control pills and ulcer medications)
Drugs That May Cause Dry Eyes include the following:
Symptoms of Dry Eye
Dry eye symptoms include a dry, gritty or burning sensation in the eyes,
redness, watery or teary eyes, and mucus that make the eyes feel “glued
shut” after sleeping. Many also report the feeling that “something
is in my eye”, or eyestrain. Itching and light sensitivity may
also occur. Symptoms are usually worse late in the day.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Dry Eye
Very often, dry eye can be diagnosed based on symptoms. In addition,
ophthalmologists use a variety of special tests including measurement
of tear production, use of dyes, and evaluation of the constitution
of the tear film in order to confirm the diagnosis. These tests serve
to rule out other potential problems, such as conjunctivitis, that can
produce the same symptoms.
If dry eye is left untreated, it may damage tissue and scar the cornea.
Therefore, it is a medical problem that requires treatment. Treatment
of dry eye is directed at wetting the eye, reducing inflammation, improving
the environment, and evaluating overall health condition, medications
* Use of artificial tears or ointments to lubricate the eye
* Insertion of punctal plugs which prevent tear drainage out of the
* Evaluation of surrounding environment for dryness and dust
* Modifications to diet such as increasing water intake
* Evaluation of medications; many of which can dehydrate sensitive tissues
in the body
* Remembering to blink
* Treatment of associated medical problem such as blepharitis, conjunctivitis,
or eyelid problems that keep the eyes from closing entirely during an
A person with symptoms of dry eye may only need artificial tears. However,
since dryness can signal other problems or even cause serious damage
to the eye, being seen by an ophthalmologist is highly suggested if
symptoms are bothersome and do not resolve in a short period of time.
How Can Dry Eye Patients Wear Contacts?
Great improvements have been made in contact lens materials. In the
past, many dry eye patients could not tolerate contacts. Now, they can
be fit with numerous new types of contacts, especially ones that contain
the newest polymers. These molecules attach to water, allowing the lens
to resist deposits and function better.
There have been great advances in the recognition, diagnosis and treatment
of various types of dry eye. For example, patients with oil gland dysfunction
can tolerate contact lenses for extended periods of time through a regimen
of warm compresses, lid scrubs and artificial teardrops.
Chronic dry eye patients can now wear their contact lenses more comfortably
thanks to high quality eye drops such as Restasis®, the only eye
drop approved by the FDA to treat chronic dry eye. Most dry eye patients
can now tolerate contact lenses for at least eight hours per day. Patients
formerly dependent on eyeglasses can now enjoy a newfound freedom from
their glasses and try the latest technology in contact lenses, including
An eye doctor or eyewear technician can show you about the different
contact lens polymers available today. During an office visit, a physician
or eye technician performs a thorough investigation into the history
and habits of the contact lens patient. The technician measures the
patient's eye, evaluates the lenses currently being worn and provides
a lens recommendation based on the patient's specific needs. Patients
are then given instructions on how to handle and care for their lenses