Dry Eye

While blinking, eyes produce tears that make its surface smooth and clear. These tears keep eyes healthy and comfortable. However, in some cases eyes fail to produce enough tears. This condition results in dry eye. The tear film of our eyes has three layers namely:

Oily layer
Watery layer
Mucus layer

Each layer serves a different purpose. While the oily layer aims to reduce evaporation of tears and keep the tear surface smooth, the watery layer cleans the eye and washes away the irritants. Mucus, produced by the conjunctiva, helps tears to stick to the eyes. It allows the watery layer to spread evenly over the eye's surface. By producing the right quantity of tears, eyes remain comfortable and moist.

Dry eyes signal their discomfort and if, not kept moist enough results in irritation. The irritation prompts the lacrimal gland to release tears in large volumes, the excess of which can overflow.

Dry Eye Causes

So the question is what causes dry eyes? Conditions affecting the lacrimal gland lead to less secretion of tears resulting in dry eye. The condition can also arise due herpes zoster and diabetes that reduce corneal sensation. A wide range of medications can also reduce the secretion of tears. Some of them are:

Sleeping pills
Pain relievers
Diuretics
Anti-anxiety medicines
Antihistamines
Beta-blockers

Exposure to windy and dry climate, smoke and air conditioning also speed up evaporation of tears resulting in dry eye.

Symptoms of Dry Eye

People suffering from this condition find their eyes in discomfort after watching television or reading. They feel as if they cannot keep their eyes open for very long. Some of the common dry eye symptoms are:

Excessive tearing
Burning
Irritation
Scratchiness
Discomfort while wearing lenses

People at Risk

Anybody can suffer from this problem. However, people subjected to Sjögren's syndrome usually experience dry eye. Others with systemic diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus can suffer from it. People having thyroid diseases too complain of dry eye.

Patients who have undergone refractive or LASIK surgery may also feel the problem. People wearing contact lenses for long-term are also at risk of undergoing the painful experience.

Certain environmental factors like windy or dry air, air conditioning, cigarette smoke may result in drying of tears. Today, most of us work in front of computers for long hours. People working for long in front of a computer monitor blink less and, therefore, are more vulnerable to the problem.

Diagnosis

You should immediately consult an ophthalmologist if you experience dry eye symptoms. Your doctor will examine your eyes and find out about the problem. In some cases, tests are done to measure the rate of tear production. Schirmer’s tear test is one of them. In some cases, your doctor will put special eye drops in your eyes and study the amount of time taken by the cornea to develop dry spots.

Dry Eye Treatment

Normally doctors prescribe eye drops called artificial tears to treat eye dryness. These drops help eyes to maintain moisture and lubricate their surface. There are also preservative-free eye drops for people sensitive to preservatives in artificial teardrops.

It is important to conserve tears. A small channel into the nose help tears to drain out of the eye. Your doctor can close the channel (either permanently or temporarily) to conserve tears.

Just like other liquids, tears evaporate. It is vital to prevent evaporation. During winter, a humidifier adds moisture to the dry air. The drying effect of the wind can be reduced by using wraparound glasses. People suffering from dry eyes should avoid conditions causing dryness. Omega-3 fatty acids found in foods like flax seeds and oily fish can also provide relief. However, before consuming them, it is advisable to consult your eye doctor.

If the above methods do not work, your doctor may prescribe you medication such as cyclosporine. Steroid eye drops can also be used occasionally in severe cases. However, these are not prescribed for long-term treatment. Ointments, inserts and gels are the other options.

At i4vision, a leading eye care clinic in Kolkata, Dr Somdutt Prasad, one of the best retinal specialists and a top eye doctor in Kolkata, diagnoses patients suffering from dry eye syndrome. After thorough examination, Dr Prasad prescribes medication to treat the condition.