Dry eye syndrome, also known as dry eye, is very common and affects millions of Americans every year. If you are struggling with this issue, know there are treatment options available to help.
“We see many people in our office suffering from chronic eye discomfort that ends up being dry eye, which is very treatable.” said Eye Consultants of Atlanta physician Dr. Evan Loft. “I always encourage my patients to come in sooner rather than later if they start to notice any irritation or discomfort that lasts more than a day or so to avoid any long-term damage.”
In this article, we break down the symptoms, causes, and treatment options for dry eye.
What is dry eye?
Dry eye sounds like a minor concern until you’re dealing with it on a regular basis. Dry eye syndrome occurs when your tears can’t do their job. The human eye is designed to generate tears, a combination of water, salt, and oils. These passive tears are meant to constantly lubricate your eyes to keep them from drying out and to help wash away any dust or small irritants that find their way into the eye.
What are the symptoms of dry eye?
Symptoms of dry eye include:
- A scratchy feeling, like there’s something in your eye
- Stinging or burning
- Blurry vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Red eyes
- Difficulty wearing contact lenses
Dry eyes can also have symptoms that mimic ocular allergies. It’s important to note the key differences to ensure the proper treatment plan is developed.
What causes dry eye?
The three primary disruptions that cause dry eye are reduced tear production, increased tear evaporation, or the wrong tear mixture. Factors like age, medical condition, medication, hormonal issues, and harsh environmental conditions can all play a role in these possible causes.
Dry eye can be caused by several different issues, all related to the eye’s tear film. This tear film is made up of fatty oils, aqueous fluid, and mucus. Disruptions to any of these elements can result in dry eye.
How is dry eye treated?
The first step in treating dry eye is identifying the underlying issue. This requires a professional assessment by an eye doctor. Once the issue had been identified, treatment is fairly straightforward.
Treatment options for dry eye include:
- Artificial tear drops – Artificial tears can be purchased at the drugstore without a prescription. These eye drops help moisturize the eyes when your ocular system isn’t able to do this on its own.
- Prescription eye drops – If your eyes are dry due to constant inflammation, Restasis and Xiidra are the prescription eye drops that are commonly prescribed. They are minor immunosuppressants to stop your eyes from fighting dry eye inflammation with too much enthusiasm.
- Eye inserts – Eye inserts are clear tubes of medication that resemble grains of rice. These inserts release medicine to keep your eyes lubricated.
- Procedures – Procedures that are often used to treat dry eye include closing your eye ducts, special contacts, and Lipiflow ( a procedure that treats blocked meibomian glands).
The most important thing to remember if you are struggling with chronic dry eye is to see an eye doctor for a professional assessment. This will ensure the accurate cause is identified and the best treatment plan is developed.