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:

Acetophenazine
Amitriptyline
Antazoline
Atropine
Azatadine
Belladona
Beta Blockers
Bromphreniramine
Carbinoxamine
Carphenazine
Chlorisondamine
Chlorpheniramine
Chlorpromazine
Clemastine
Cyroheptadine
Desipranline
Dexbrompheniramine
Dexchlorpheniramine
Diethazine
Dimethindene
Diphenhydramine
Diphenylpyraline
Doxylamine
Ether
Ethopropazine
Fluphenazine
Hashish
Hexamethonium
Homatropine
Imipramine
Isoretinoin
Marijuana
Mesoridazine
Methdilazine
Methotrimeprazine


Methscopolamine
Methyldopa
Methylthiouracil
Metoprolol
Morphine
Nitrous Oxide
Nortriptyline
Opium
Oxprenolol
Perazine
Periciazine
Perphenazine
Pheniramine
Piperacetazine
Practolol
Prochlorperazine
Promazine
Promethazine
Propiomazine
Propranolol
Protriptyline
Pyrilamine
Scopolamine
Tetrahydrocannabinol
THC
Thiethylperazine
Thioproperazine
Thiordazine
Thirpropazate
Trichloroethylene
Trifluoperazine
Trifupromazine
Trimeprazine
Tripelennamine
Triprolidinev

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 and diet.

Therapies include:

* Use of artificial tears or ointments to lubricate the eye
* Insertion of punctal plugs which prevent tear drainage out of the eyes
* 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 involuntary blink.

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 multifocal lenses.

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