Dry eye syndrome is an irritating medical condition, though it is typically not serious. However, if left untreated, a patient could end up with severe vision problems that could lead to a decreased quality of life. With proper treatment, dry eye syndrome can be managed so it doesn’t progress and interfere with a patient’s ability to perform daily activities. In this post, we discuss the different types of dry eye syndrome, along with causes, symptoms and treatment methods.
What is Dry Eye Syndrome?
If you’ve ever consulted an ophthalmologist or optometrist because your eyes feel dry all the time, you may have been diagnosed with dry eye syndrome, dry eye disease or simply “dry eyes.” In general, the condition is a result of the eyes not being lubricated properly. The eyes need to be properly lubricated at all times, which is why we blink several times in a minute.
If you try to avoid blinking for several minutes, you’ll feel that your eyes become uncomfortably dry, maybe even painful. Every time you blink, fluid from several glands in the eyes covers the cornea to keep it lubricated.
Statistics show that dry eye syndrome is prevalent all over the world. In some cases, 5% of a country’s population may be affected by the condition. In other countries, up to 50% of the population is suffering.
If you’re having problems performing daily activities, such as reading, working on your computer or focusing while driving because your eyes feel dry, it’s time to see an eye doctor.
What Are the Symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome?
Dry eye syndrome can involve a wide range of symptoms. It’s important to remember that the eyes are sensitive and vision problems can become aggravated quite quickly. Thus, if you’ve been experiencing any of the below symptoms for more than a day without relief, then you should consult an eye doctor as soon as possible:
Finding it difficult to focus while driving because of irritated eyes
Watery eyes, usually a response to red eyes
The feeling that something is stuck in your eyes
Discomfort when wearing your contact lenses
A feeling of fatigue in the eyes
Sensitivity to light
Frequent discharge from the eyes
While these symptoms can be associated with a number of eye conditions, if they are bothering you, then you will need to consult with your eye doctor. If you’re in Minnesota and need to consult an optician in Minneapolis, be sure to contact the expert team at Downtown Eyes.
What Causes Dry Eye Syndrome?
Dry eye syndrome is typically caused by inadequate lubrication of the eyes. This can be a result of a low quantity of tears or a poor quality of tears. If the tears are poor quality, they won’t be able to lubricate the eyes adequately. This usually happens when the tears dry up too quickly and the eyes become dry, even though they may feel watery at times.
One of the main causes of dry eye syndrome caused by insufficient eye lubrication is aging. As a person ages, the glands in the eyes produce fewer tears.
Dry eye syndrome can also be caused by certain medications for high blood pressure, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, birth control or even over-the-counter decongestants. Antihistamines, which are drugs used to treat allergies, can also cause dry eye syndrome.
After undergoing LASIK surgery, it’s common to experience dry eyes for a period of time, but rest assured that this is only temporary and will improve over time. Another common cause of dry eye syndrome is inflammation to the glands that produce tears. Additionally, if the glands are exposed to radiation, their tear production ability may be compromised, leading to dry eyes.
Dry eye syndrome may also be a symptom of an underlying medical condition, such as rheumatoid arthritis or ectropion (turned out eyelids).
Treatment Options for Dry Eye Syndrome
Treatment of dry eye syndrome requires identifying the underlying cause of the condition and treating it to alleviate the symptoms. For instance, a person suffering from a medical condition that causes the eyes to feel dry will need to be treated for that condition in order to alleviate dry eye syndrome. Another example would be if the eye doctor determines that the cause of the symptom is a certain drug or medication, then the doctor would refer you to the specialist who prescribed that medicine so that an alternate medicine could be prescribed.
Before an eye doctor can recommend a course of treatment, they’ll need to perform an eye examination. This exam will usually be comprehensive, which means that the doctor will need your medical history and a complete list of medications and/or food supplements that you’re currently taking.
Your doctor will then proceed to measure the level of your tears to see if they are sufficient to lubricate your eyes adequately. This exam is performed using a Schirmer Test.
The eye doctor will also need to measure the quality of your tears. During this part of the exam, the doctor will inspect your eyes closely and measure how long it takes for your tears to evaporate.
Once the exact cause of the problem has been identified, the doctor will then recommend a course of treatment. This can include certain medications that will reduce inflammation or artificial tears if the tears are of poor quality or insufficient to provide enough lubrication.
Cholinergic drugs, such as pilocarpine or cevimeline, are able to increase the production of tears in the eyes. The doctor may also recommend a procedure to close your tear ducts to reduce the amount of tears being lost, or to unclog or unblock certain oil glands. Finally, the doctor may recommend a special type of contact lenses that can trap moisture in your eyes to avoid drying of the eyes.
Home Treatment Methods
While it’s always best to see an eye doctor for effective dry eye treatment, there are some remedies you can try at home to alleviate your symptoms if you’re not able to get to the doctor right away. First, you can try applying lubricating eye drops several times a day. However, it’s important to remember that even though the eye drops may seem to cure the condition, they can only provide temporary relief. There is a high possibility that the condition may worsen over time, so you will still need to see an eye doctor.
For dry eye syndrome, it is best that you consult an ophthalmologist, who will be able to perform the right eye exams to diagnose your condition. Optometrists usually only treat vision problems, so they may not be able to provide proper management of dry eye syndrome.