Continuous tear production keeps the eyes lubricated and protects them from infection and or irritation. Persons suffering from dry eyes experience a deficiency in tear production, making it difficult to keep the surface of the eye moist.
The tear film is made up of three layers:
- Outer: (Oily/Lipid) layer. Prevents tears from evaporating too rapidly, helping tears to remain on the eye.
- Middle:(Aqueous) layer. Cleanses the eyes and rids them of irritants.
- Bottom: (Mucin) layer. Aids in lubrication of the eye by spreading the aqueous layer across the eye.
What causes dry eyes?
Dry eye can occur as a result of a decrease in tear production or an imbalance in the tear film. Changes in eyelid position, including entropion (in-turning of the lids) and ectropion (out-turning of the lids), can hinder the blinking motion necessary to keep the surface of the eyes lubricated, resulting in dry eyes. Additionally, taking medications, such as sleeping pills, antihistamines and decongestants can mimic dry eyes. Environmental factors including a dry climate or high altitude may worsen the condition.
What are the symptoms of dry eyes?
The symptoms of dry eyes may include: a scratchy, stinging or burning feeling in your eyes, sensitivity to light, stringy mucus in or around the eyes and increased irritation from smoke or wind. Loss of vision as a result of the condition is rare. However, on some occasions, vision may become blurry or decreased.
Who is at risk for developing dry eyes?
Both men and women can experience dry eyes. However, the condition is more prevalent among women, especially following menopause. People with rheumatoid arthritis and Sjögren’s syndrome can also develop dry eyes.
What treatment options are available?
Mild cases of dry eyes can be treated with over-the-counter artificial tears. Dr. Najafi-Tagol may suggest surgery to correct an abnormal eyelid position. Persons with severe cases of dry eyes may benefit from permanently or temporarily closing the tear ducts (drainage system) to conserve the natural tears on the eyes.
If you feel your eyes are dry or irritated, please schedule a consultation with Dr. Najafi-Tagol. She can measure tear production or apply a special dye to examine the surface of the eyes.