Chronic insufficient moisture and lubrication on the surface of the eyes is what causes dry eye syndrome. Having dry eyes can result in various consequences ranging from constant yet subtle eye irritation up to major inflammation and potential scarring of the front surface of the eye.
Along with being called dry eye, dry eye disease, and dry eye syndrome, other medical terms that are sometimes used for describing dry eyes include the following:
- Keratitis sicca. This term is usually used for describing a cornea that is inflamed and dry.
- Keratoconjunctivitis sicca. This term is used for describing a dry eye that affects that conjunctiva as well as the cornea.
- Dysfunctional tear syndrome. This term is used for emphasizing that inequality quality of tears may be as critical as an inadequate quantity of tears is.
- Prevalence Of Dry Eye Syndrome
Dry eyes are quite common. One of the main reasons why people visit the eye doctor is due to dry eye syndrome. A recent poll online showed that almost half (48 percent) of Americans who are at least 18 years old experience symptoms of dry eye on a regular basis.
In addition, 2012 Gallup poll results showed that over 26 million Americans are suffering from dry eyes, and it is expected that number will increase within 10 years to over 29 million.
According to other sources, it is estimated that almost five million Americans who are 50 years old at least suffering from a clinically significant form of dry eye syndrome, with dry eyes affecting almost twice as many women as it does men.
Symptoms of Dry Eye
Symptoms of dry eye syndrome and dry eyes include the following:
- Blurred vision
- Photophobia (light sensitivity)
- Red eyes
- Dryness sensation
- Sore eyes
- Fatigued eyes
- Heavy eyes
- Aching sensations
- Itchy eyes
- Burning sensation
Foreign body sensation is another common symptom - which is the feeling or having grit or some other material or object "in" your eye.
It might sound strange, but watery eyes can potentially be a dry eye syndrome symptom. That is due to the fact that the dryness on the surface of the eye at times over-stimulates production of your tear's watery component as a type of protective measure. However, this form of "reflex tearing" doesn't remain on the eye for a long enough time for the underlying dry eye condition to be corrected.
Dry eyes, along with those symptoms, may cause inflammation and (at times permanent) damage to the eye's surface.
Dry eye syndrome may also affect the outcomes of cataract and LASIK surgery.
What Are The Causes Of Dry Eye Syndrome?
A consistent and adequate layer of tears on the eye's surface is essential for keeping your eyes seeing well, comfortable, and healthy. Tears bathe the surface of the eye so that it is kept moist as well as washes away microorganism, debris, and dust may damage the cornea and could cause an eye infection as well.
There are important components that make up a normal tear film:
- mucous-like (mucin) component
- watery (aqueous) component
- oily (lipid) component
Each tear film's component serves a very important purpose. Tear lipids, for example, help to prevent evaporation of tear film from occurring too quickly and increases lubrication. Mucin helps with anchoring and spreading the tears over the eye's surface.
Different glands that are near or on the eye produce each tear component:
- The meibomian glands inside of the eyelids produce the oily component.
- The lacrimal glands that are behind the upper eyelids' outer aspect produce the watery component.
- The goblet cells locate in the conjunctiva covering the white part of the eye (sclera) produces the mucin component.
If there is problem with one of the tear film component sources it can result in dry eyes and tear instability, and those are different dry eye categories, depending on which of the components is affected.
For instance, it not enough oil (meibum) is produced or secreted by the meibomian glands, then the tear film might evaporate too fast - this condition is referred to as "evaporative dry eye." Meibomian gland dysfunction, which is the underlying condition, is recognized now as being a significant factor in numerous dry eye syndrome cases.
There are other instance where the main thing that causes dry eye is the lacrimal glands failing to produce a sufficient amount of watery fluid (aqueous) in order to keep the eyes moistened adequately. Aqueous deficiency dry eye is what this condition is referred to.
The specific kind of dry eye frequently determines the kind of treatment that is recommended by your eye doctor to provide you with relief from your symptoms of dry eye.
Factors Linked With Dry Eye Syndrome
There are numerous factors that may increase the risk of getting dry eyes. They include:
- Using the computer. When using a smartphone or working on a computer or another type of digital device, we have a tendency to not blink our eye as fully and also not as frequently, and that leads to increased evaporation of tears and increased risk for developing symptoms of dry eye.
- Wear contact lens. Although it can be hard determining the precise extent that wearing contact lens contributes to problems of dry eye, discomfort from dry eye is one of the main reasons why people stop wearing contact lens.
- Aging. You can get dry eye syndrome at any age. However, it does become increasingly more likely the older you get, especially after the age of 50.
- Menopause. Women who are post-menopausal are at a higher risk of developing dry eye compared to men that are the same age as them.
Indoor environment. Forced air heating, ceiling fans, and air conditioning all may decrease humidity indoors and/or speed up the evaporation of tears, which cause symptoms of dry eye.
- Outdoor environment. Windy or dry conditions and air climates might increase the risk of dry eye.
- Frequent flying. Often the air inside of airplane cabins are very dry which may lead to problems of dry eye, particularly among those who fly on a frequent basis.
- Smoking. Along with dry eyes, smoking is linked with serious eye issues, including uveitis, cataracts, and macular degeneration.
- Health conditions. There are some systemic diseases - like Sjogren's syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, thyroid-associated diseases, and diabetes - that contribute to problems of dry eye.
- Medications. There are a number of nonprescription and prescription medicines - including birth control pills, blood pressure medications, antidepressants, and antihistamines - that increase risk of developing symptoms of dry eye.
- Eyelid problems. Whenever eyelids do not completely close when sleeping or blinking - which is a condition referred to as lagophthalmos, may be caused by the aging process or occur following cosmetic blepharoplasty or some other cause - may cause serious dry eyes which may then result in a corneal ulcer if it isn't treated.
Also, LASIK along with other types of corneal refractive surgery at times might cause dry eyes. However, in most cases, dry eye discomfort is temporary after LASIK and will be resolved within a couple of weeks following the procedure.
If you had dry eyes before LASIK, then a dry eye treatment regimen might be recommended by your eye doctor prior to your surgery in order to ensure the best possible results from LASIK.
The only way of knowing for certain that you have chronic dry eye syndrome is having one or several dry eye tests performed by your doctor as part of an eye exam.
Just symptoms by themselves are a poor predictor of the severity or presence of dry eye disease. Also, there can be significant variations in symptoms from one individual to the next, and might be affected even by type of personality. Some individuals with just mild or minimal dry eyes might feel some bothersome in their eyes, while other people might have serious dry eye issues and their symptoms might be considered significant enough to need to visit an eye doctor. Or a person might not be experiencing any dry eye symptoms.
A thorough exam of your eyes by one of our optometrist is the only thing that can reveal the severity and presence of dry eye syndrome. It can assist your eye doctor with determining the best kind of dry eye treatment so that your eyes are keep seeing well, comfortable and healthy.
Dry Eye Prevention And Treatment
Fortunately, effective treatment options are available if you are suffering from chronic dry eyes. Using artificial tears on a routine basis and minor behavioral changes (for example, taking breaks frequently from the computer), in many cases can work to reduce your dry eye symptoms significantly.
In other situations, your eye doctor may recommend in-office procedures and prescription eye medications to assist your body with creating and secreting more tears and to help decrease eye inflammation and irritation.
To learn more about dry eye syndrome, please call us today at (919) 977-7480. Dr. Bassiri and the Fusion Eye Care team look forward to ensuring you get your dry eyes addressed.