Dry eye syndrome (DES) is a chronic condition that develops when your eyes do not produce and maintain enough tears to keep the eye’s surface lubricated resulting in multiple symptoms that range from person to person. This can be due to a reduction in tear production or increased tear evaporation from a lack of lipid in the tears that stem from oil glands in the eyelids. The effects can range from minor dryness and discomfort to pain, blurred vision and frequent infections.
Symptoms of Dry Eye Disease
Symptoms of dry eye syndrome can vary depending on the severity of the condition but can include:
- Dry, itchy eyes
- Burning or stinging
- Watery eyes
- Blurred vision
- Foreign body sensation
The main function of tears is to maintain the health of the cornea of your eye by washing away foreign matter and ensuring that the surface of your eye remains moist, smooth and clear. Tears also rinse away dust particles from your eyes and contain enzymes that protect your eyes from bacteria that can cause infections. Dry eyes is a condition that develops when the amount of tears produced is not sufficient to maintain the moisture balance in your eye. This can result in that scratchy sensation, a continuous feeling of dryness, stinging and a sensation of a foreign body in your eye. Ironically in an effort to fight off the condition, dry eyes can cause you to produce excessive tears, which is why some people experience watery eyes.
Causes of Dry Eye Disease
Dry eyes can occur naturally as a result of aging or hormonal changes, typically in women who are pregnant, taking oral contraceptives or going through menopause. In fact, women over 50 have a 50% greater risk of dry eye disease than men do of the same age. It can also result from taking certain medications that reduce tear production such as antihistamines, blood pressure medications and antidepressants. Environmental factors can also play a role in drying out the eyes and DED is common in areas where the climate is dry, dusty and windy. Home air conditioners or heating systems and excessive time spent staring at a computer or television screen can also dry out eyes and exacerbate symptoms due to the lack of blinking while staring at our screens.
Individuals that suffer from certain medical conditions such as diabetes, blepharitis, lupus, arthritis and thyroid problems are more vulnerable to developing DED. Other causes can be due to eye surgery including LASIK, certain conditions in which the eyelids don’t close properly or extended contact lens use.
Q&A Dr. Ellison Answers Your Eyecare Questions
Q: Do you have any recommendations for people to help them avoid Dry Eye issues?
Good eye hygiene, “eyegiene” if you will excuse the pun, can go a long way to help to avoid dry eyes.
We should all be using a good quality artificial tear at least every morning and night in the same way that you brush your teeth or apply moisturizer to your skin twice daily.
Cleansing the lids daily with gentle lid cleansers can prevent inflammation and keep the oil glands in the lids flowing. Omega 3 supplements can also help.
Taking frequent breaks from computers and other near tasks along with use of humidifiers at home and work can also go a long way to preventing dry eye issues. Big “squeezy” blinks when taking those frequent breaks can also be helpful especially when artificial tears are not nearby.
Schedule A Diagnosis of Dry Eye Disease With Our Waterloo Optometrists
Typically, dry eye disease can be diagnosed through a comprehensive eye exam in Waterloo, ON and a description of your symptoms. On some occasions the eye doctor might decide to do a test that measures how quickly your tears evaporate from the surface of your eye. By instilling a simple dye called fluorescein (much like food coloring) the doctor is able to watch and count how long it takes the tears to start to break up after they’ve asked you to hold your eyes open after a blink. This is called TBUT or a Tear Break Up Time test. A low TBUT generally indicates a lipid (aka oil) deficiency in the tears resulting from oil glands in the eyelids not functioning properly. In another type of test, called a Schirmer test, a strip of filter paper is placed under the lid of the eye and you will be asked to close your eye for five minutes. Following the test the amount of moisture on the strip will be measured. Schirmer tests are performed less frequently than a TBUT test.
HYLO™ – long-lasting dry eye relief!
When you experience symptoms of dry eye, or after eye surgery or an eye injury your doctor may recommend using eye drops (artificial tears).
How does HYLO™ work?
HYLO™ eye drops contain the sodium salt of hyaluronic acid, a substance found naturally in the eye and other parts of the body. Due to its special physical property, HYLO™ forms a regular, stable, long lasting lubricating film on the eye surface. This film is not easily rinsed off and does not cause blurred vision. HYLO™ provides long-lasting moisture to the surface of the eye to efficaciously support the natural process of healing wear.