An Introduction to the Dry Eye Problem

Many individuals experience “dry eye” when they are involved in outdoor activities and are exposed to extreme heat and windy weather. Other individuals experience a drying effect in their eyes from long hours viewing a computer screen or when reading. The experience is unpleasant, but rarely do people realize that the effects of ‘dry eye’ may have significant health implications.

Why are tears important?

Tears are vital for bringing oxygen and nutrients to the surface of our eyes. Tears keep moisture in our eyes, and tears wash away any dust or tiny particles. Tears also prevent bacteria or infections from developing inside our eyes. Keeping our eyes lubricated is critical for our eye health and the clarity of vision.

Here is a brief introduction to the medical diagnosis of ‘dry eye’ including causes, symptoms and common treatments. Because the causes of dry eye are varied, an accurate diagnosis of the specific cause of dry eye is important so that treatment can be effective.

What is ‘dry eye,’ the medical issue?

“Dry Eye” is the term that is used to define a variety of health issues that center on the relationship between eyes and tears. When our eyes don’t produce an adequate amount of tears that are needed to lubricate our eyes, issues arise. What is even more confusing is that sometimes the symptoms include an over production of tears, but it is still an indication of ‘Dry Eye Syndrome.’

The common term ‘Dry Eye Syndrome’ is medically referred to as “ocular surface disease” and often carries the diagnosis of keratonconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), dysfunctional tear syndrome, or evaporative dry eye.

The Two Types of Dry Eye

Aqueous Tear-Deficient Dry Eye

Tears are made of two primary components: water and oil. If the lacrimal glands don’t produce enough supply of the tears, the eye’s surface doesn’t remain healthy. This type of dry eye is called “Aqueous Tear-deficient Dry Eye.”

Evaporative Dry Eye

The second type of dry eye is “Evaporative Dry Eye”. This type of dry eye is the result of an inflammation of the Meibomian glands located in the eyelids. These glands are responsible for making the lipid, or the oily part of the tears. Without the lipids, the water component of the tear evaporates too quickly for the eye to process the moisture and protect the eye surface.

Symptoms of dry eyes

  • Burning sensations.
  • Sandy, gritty or foreign body sensation inside the eyes.
  • Visible discharge in stringy form coming from the affected eye(s).
  • Redness.
  • Blurry vision.
  • Heavy eyelids.
  • Eye fatigue.
  • Tearing & watery eyes.

Causes of “Dry Eye”

  • Medications and side effects: (examples: antihistamines, birth control pills, nasal decongestants, blood pressure medicines, antidepressants and medicines for Parkinson’s disease.
  • Certain skin diseases that can develop around the eyelids.
  • Pregnancy.
  • Hormone replacement therapy treatments.
  • Allergies; both seasonal and pet-related.
  • Some homeopathic remedies can aggravate “Dry Eye”.
  • Some eye surgeries, such as LASIK, may produce dry eye symptoms, although these symptoms are usually only temporary.

Suggested treatment / Cure for Dry Eye Symptoms

Through an assessment or screening process, the cause of the dryness must be determined to identify the type of dry eye disorder and appropriate treatments.

Patients are often prescribed a steroid eye drop for a short period to lessen the inflammation. Anti-inflammatory medicines like topical cyclosporine or prescription drug Restasis are often prescribed with a twice a day dosage to get positive results.

A specialist may perform a procedure where plugs are inserted to control the flow of tears. These may be temporary or permanent, depending upon diagnosis.

Other treatments that can be done in office by a certified dry eye specialist include Blephex or LIPIFLOW. Blephex gently removes any debris from the eyes and exfoliates the eyelids. LIPIFLOW warms and gently pulsates to remove blockages in the Meibomian glands which stimulates the normal production of lipids (oils).