Dry eye syndrome is a chronic eye condition that occurs when the eye surface doesn’t receive adequate lubrication from tears. The National Eye Institute says millions of people in the U.S. suffer from dry eye, experiencing symptoms like itching, burning, excessive tearing, and hypersensitivity to light, all of which can interfere with normal, daily activities.
Dry eye syndrome is caused by problems with the quality, distribution or production of your tears. Tears are made up of a special oily fluid. If the tears are too “thin,” they can evaporate too quickly, allowing the eye surface to become dry and irritated. Likewise, if tears are not distributed regularly across the surface of the eye, it can become dry. Sometimes, the ducts that release tears become blocked or plugged, preventing tears from reaching the eye surface. And some people simply don’t produce enough tears to keep their eyes lubricated. Some of the most common factors causing or contributing to dry eye include:
- Older age
- Long-term use of certain medications, including allergy medications and some high blood pressure medications
- Underlying medical conditions or autoimmune diseases like Sjogren’s disease, thyroid disease and Parkinson’s disease
- Hormonal changes, including changes associated with menopause
- Exposure to dry environments or irritants like smoke or chemical fumes
- Lifestyle habits, including close-up work and long-term use of computers and other electronics which tend to limit blinking
- Contact lens wear
Dry eyes can cause an array of symptoms, including:
- Itching and burning sensations in the eye
- “Foreign body” sensation – the sensation that an object is poking into your eye
- Gritty sensation in the eye
- Excessive tearing
- Blurry vision
- Eye redness
- Tired eyes, especially when reading, using a computer or performing close-up work for an extended period
Symptoms can range from mild to severe, and they can become worse as the day wears on.
Detection and Diagnosis
Dry eyes can be diagnosed during a routine eye exam, beginning with a review of your symptoms. Chronic dry eyes can cause changes in the corneas (the clear membrane that rests on top of your pupil and iris, the colored portion of the eye). During your exam, your eye doctor will look closely at your corneas to look for signs of dry eye, sometimes using a special dye to highlight the cornea and to make it easier to see how well your tears are being distributed across your eye. The doctor will also evaluate the quality of your tear film and assess how well your eyes are producing tears.
Most people with dry eyes respond well to special lubricating eye drops designed to keep the eye surface moist and reduce irritation. If your tears are evaporating too quickly, you might benefit from punctal plugs, tiny plugs that are placed in your eye’s natural tear drain to keep your tears on the eye surface for a longer period of time. You can also help reduce symptoms by avoiding very dry environments as well as areas with smoke or other airborne irritants whenever possible, and by simple lifestyle changes, like taking frequent breaks when using a computer or performing close-up work.
Do you have dry eye symptoms?
Dry eyes are more than just annoying; without treatment, they can lead to ulcers (sores) and corneal scarring. If you have symptoms of dry eyes, it’s important to have your eyes evaluated as soon as possible. As a top eye care provider in Jacksonville, Florida Eye Specialists is a leading dry eye care center, offering state-of-the-art, custom treatment solutions to help patients relieve symptoms and improve their eye health. Call the office at 904-268-3937 and schedule your eye exam today.