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Dry Eye

DRY EYE CHECKLIST

  • Red Eyes
  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Foreign Body Sensation
  • Tearing
  • Sensitivity to Light
  • Contact Lens Intolerance
  • Pain
  • Allergies
  • Dry Mouth and Throat
  • Arthritis/Fibromyalgia

Do you Have Dry Eyes?

Dry eye syndrome (DES) is a very common problem, affecting about 20% of the population. Our tears function to protect the eyes and keep them lubricated and comfortable. Dry eye syndrome is the decline of the quantity and/or quality of tears produced. It is caused when the tear glands in the upper and lower eyelids do not produce enough tears, nor they do not produce the right kind of tears. This phenomenon causes the eyes to feel irritated, scratchy, burning, red, and uncomfortable. Our eyes are moistened by two different types of tears: lubricating tears and reflex tears. Lubricating tears are produced continuously to moisturize the eye and contain natural infection-fighting antibiotics. Reflex tears are produced in response to sudden irritation (smoke, onions, and foreign particles), injury, or emotion. Ironically, the irritation from dry eyes can trigger reflex tears, which flood the eye. Because reflex tears do not have the proper lubricating composition, the discomfort persists. Thus “watery eyes” can actually be a symptom of dry eye syndrome.


Causes of Dry Eye

Dry Eye Syndrome (DES) has many causes, which explains why millions are affected. The most common causes include:

  • The Aging Process - Tear flow normally decreases with age.
  • Contact Lens Wear - Contact lens wear can dramatically increase tear evaporation, causing discomfort, infection, and/or increased protein deposits. Research shows that DES is the leading cause of contact lens intolerance.
  • Hormonal Changes in Women - Various hormonal changes associated with pregnancy, oral contra- ceptives and menopause can contribute to DES.
  • Environmental Factors - People who are exposed to smoke, air pollution, high altitude, sunny, windy, cold or dry air conditions are at risk for DES.
  • Side Effects if Disease/Medication - Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis can lower your ability to produce tears. Antihistamines and other medications can cause DES.
  • Sjogren's Syndrome - An immune system disorder characterized by inflammation and dryness of the mouth, eyes and other mucous membranes. This disorder damages the lacrimal glands and affects tear production.
  • Laser Vision Correction Surgeries - Following various ophthalmic surgical procedures, patients may develop DES. Many patients have benefited from temporary punctal occlusion following such procedures.
  • Computer Use - When using a computer or reading, there is a decreased blink reflex and it can worsen DES.

Treatment of Dry Eye

Depending on the intensity of the condition, treatment for dry eye syndrome may be as simple as artificial tears one to two times daily. It is important to use artificial tears without preservatives. There are also prescription medications that are used to treat DES.

In more persistent cases of dry eyes, a simple procedure called punctal occlusion is available. It provides long term relief through the use of tiny plugs in the opening of the tear duts, the puncti. There are upper and lower tear ducts in the inner corner of each eye. The tear ducts drain our tears away from our eyes and into our nose and throat. The tear gland or lacrimal gland is the producer of our tears. The tear gland is located underneath the eyebrow. Occluding the tear ducts allows for our tears to stay around our eyes longer and prevents the tears from draining too quickly. Punctal occlusion is a widely performed procedure, and there is minimal discomfort. This treatment only takes a few minutes to perform. It is done in the office with the aid of the slit lamp (the microscope used to examine your eyes). The procedure is permanent and it is easily reversible. This procedure is usually covered by health insurance.

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