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What is Dry Eye?
What is Dry Eye?
The tears we produce are responsible for nourishing, hydrating and protecting the outer surface of the eyes.
There are three layers to the tears which help perform this important role:
- A ‘sticky’ mucous layer, which helps the tear to adhere to the eye
- A ‘watery’ aqueous middle layer, which forms the bulk of the tears
- An ‘oily’ lipid external layer, which helps prevent the tears from evaporating too quickly.
Dry eye occurs when these delicate tear layers are affected.
What Causes Dry Eye?
Anything that disrupts the make-up of our tears can cause dry eyes. This can include both external and internal factors, such as:
Dry environments, typically caused by air-conditioning/heaters, or windy environments.
- Increased concentration: when concentrating we typically blink less.
- Laser eye surgery.
- As we age, fewer tears are produced and the quality of produced tears is reduced.
- After pregnancy/menopause, the amount and quality of tears may be affected.
- Medications like the oral contraceptive pill and antihistamines can cause dry eye.
- Arthritis sufferers may also experience dry eyes.
- Blepharitis (or inflammation of the eyelids) may cause the glands which produce the oil layer of the tears to become blocked, impacting your body’s ability to lubricate the eyes efficiently.
In chronic cases, studies have shown that over 75% of dry eye is caused by a problem with the oily tear glands situated in the eyelids – a condition known as Meibomian Gland Dysfunction.
What Are the Symptoms of Dry Eye?
This common condition can affect people both short-term and long-term.
Common symptoms include:
- Scratchy/stingy/irritated eyes
- A feeling of something in the eye
- Watery eyes (epiphora) and blurred vision
- Discomfort when wearing contact lenses
- Inflamed, flaky eyelids (blepharitis)
How Is It Diagnosed?
At Optometrist Parramatta, your experienced optometrist can conduct the necessary tests to investigate the quantity and quality of your tears to correctly diagnose this condition.
How is Dry Eye Treated?
There is a range of treatment options available, which will depend on the underlying cause and extent of the problem. Accurate diagnosis and assessment are essential to choosing the correct treatment.
For mild cases, our optometrists can suggest specific lubricating eye drops to give relief from dry eye symptoms. They may also recommend lifestyle changes, alterations in your contact lens wear or care, or supplements. Occasionally a course of certain antibiotics (i.e. Doxycyclines) may be prescribed to help the tear film return to normal.
In more severe cases, a small Tear Duct Plug (also known as a Punctal Plug) is inserted into the tear duct of an eye to block the duct. This prevents liquid from draining from the eye, allowing it to better maintain moisture.
Can I Prevent Dry Eye?
We can all do a few simple things to make our eyes generally feel more comfortable. These include drinking lots of water, avoiding dry environments where possible and taking regular breaks when doing concentrated work.
Additionally, your optometrist may talk to you about omega-3 supplements during your eye examination.