Dry Eye Syndrome
Your eyes have a tear film that keeps them moist.
Dry eye syndrome is when the eyes do not produce enough quality tears to maintain sufficient moisture.
As a result, they become irritated. Those who have dry eye syndrome may experience poorer vision. The cornea can also sustain damage if dry eye syndrome is not treated.
What causes dry eye syndrome?
Dry eye syndrome can be caused by decreased tear production, increased tear evaporation or an imbalance in the makeup of tears.
Increased tear evaporation can occur when the rate of blinking decreases. The normal rate of blinking is 22 times per minute. However, when you are staring at a computer or book, this rate can fall to around 7 times per minute. This increases the likelihood of dry eye syndrome.
What are the symptoms of dry eye syndrome?
The symptoms of dry eye syndrome usually affect both eyes and include:
- a stinging, burning or scratchy sensation in your eyes and a feeling that there’s something in them
- mucus in or around your eyes
- increased sensitivity to bright lights and the sun
- redness and watering of the eyes
- difficulty wearing contact lenses
- difficulty driving at night
- blurred vision or eye fatigue.
How is dry eye syndrome diagnosed?
Dry eye syndrome is detected with a regular eye exam that includes:
- an external eye examination that inspects the eyelids and cornea and assesses how long it takes for your tears to evaporate
- a Schimer Test, which uses blotting paper strips under the lower eyelids to determine the strength of your tear production
- determining the quality of your tears by using different dyes to stain the cornea and measure how long it takes for your tears to evaporate
- Antares meibography to look at the health of your oil glands in the eyelids
- tear film osmolarity to assess the health of your tear film.
What are the risk factors of dry eye syndrome?
The risk factors include:
- age, especially for those over 50 years old, as tear production decreases as we get older
- hormonal changes in women, especially due to pregnancy, birth control or menopause
- wearing contact lenses
- spaces with low humidity or poor air quality
- prolonged periods staring at a computer or phone
- a diet that is deficient in vitamin A or omega-3 fatty acids
- post-eye surgery.
How do I prevent the onset of dry eye syndrome?
You can help prevent dry eye syndrome by:
- using eye drops to keep your eyes well-lubricated
- using a humidifier to add moisture to dry indoor air
- wearing appropriate eyewear to protect your eyes from sunlight and dry wind
- taking breaks during long tasks that require visual concentration by simply closing your eyes or blinking repeatedly
- positioning your computer monitor below eye level so that your eyes do not open as widely, slowing down the evaporation of your tears between blinks
- quitting smoking and avoiding smoke.
What are the long-term implications of dry eye syndrome?
The long-term complications include:
- an increased risk of eye infections since your eyes do not have the protection of adequate tears
- damage to the cornea from inflammation, abrasion of the surface and corneal ulcer and vision problems
- decreased quality of life since dry eye syndrome makes it difficult to do everyday activities, such as reading.
What are the treatment options for dry eye syndrome?
For most people, over-the-counter eye drops are an accessible treatment to manage dry eye syndrome.
For those who struggle with the symptoms, the following treatment options are available:
- light therapy
- anti-inflammatory medication
- tear-stimulating medication.
At Hobart Eye Surgeons, we carefully assess your dry eye syndrome and will recommend the treatment that best suits you.