Dry eye syndrome is a common condition that we see most often in older adults. We call it “keratoconjunctivitis sicca.” You can call it DES, or simply dry eye.
For millions of people, dry eye is a condition in which the eyes don’t produce enough tears to adequately lubricate and nourish the surface of the eye (the cornea) and surrounding tissues. Dry eyes can also be caused because the eyes produce poor quality tears that can’t do the job they were intended for.
Why Your Tears are Important
Tear production directly impacts the health and comfort of your eyes. Your tear glands constantly produce small amounts of tears, creating a smooth surface over the cornea. This constant lubrication is essential so your eyelids can open and close over your eyes without causing irritation or soreness.
Your tears also:
- Reduce the risk of an eye infection
- Wash away dirt and debris in your eyes
- Keep the surface of your eyes smooth and clear
Symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome
Common symptoms of dry eye syndrome include:
- Redness (“bloodshot eyes”)
- An increased sensitivity to light
If you think, “Hey, that’s how I felt last week,” think back to what you were doing. We’ve all had red, dry eyes at some point. Were you in a hot, windy environment? Working in an office with air constantly blowing onto your face? Or spending too much time staring at a computer, cellphone or TV screen?
A constant breeze can dry out your eyes. Staring intently at digital displays of a TV screen can cause you to not blink as often as you should; when that happens, your eyes don’t get the moisture they need.
If you weren’t trekking across the Sahara Desert (or watching a long movie about it on TV), and you’ve noticed that your eyes feel dry more often than they used to, please let us know. We can schedule an appointment to help determine if you have dry eye and what treatment options are right for you.
Treatments for Dry Eye Syndrome
While common, dry eye syndrome isn’t something you’ll simply “get over,” like the common cold. Instead, we can prescribe one or more treatments for you to help alleviate the symptoms.
Treatments may include:
- Applying eye drops. If your eyes are chronically dry, then applying moisture by using artificial tears throughout your day may help. Splashing water in your face won’t do the trick. That’s because your tears are more than just water. They also contain other ingredients that help fight infection and lubricate the eye to keep it moist.
- Ointments and other medications. If you need a little help getting those tears to start flowing, we may be able to prescribe medication to help.
- Conserving your natural tears. To keep natural tears in your eyes longer, the small ducts that allow tears to drain can be blocked with tiny silicone or gel–like plugs that can later be removed, if needed. A surgical procedure is also available to permanently close the tear ducts.
If you’re concerned about dry eye, or think you or a loved one may have the condition, give us a call to schedule an appointment. We’re here to help!
Nothing in this article is to be construed as medical advice, nor is it intended to replace the recommendations of a medical professional. For specific questions, please contact our office.
Adapted with permission from: Dry Eye: What Is It and What Can You Do To Help?CooperVision.com.