It is estimated that nearly five million Americans over the age of 50 are affected by Dry eye syndrome and over three million are women. Clear vision and comprehensive eye health are directly related to tear production. Tears keep the surface of the eye moist and help to wash away surface debris.
The main lacrimal gland responsible for producing tears is located in the eye socket; above and lateral to the eye. There are also numerous microscopic lacrimal glands in the conjunctiva. A failure of these glands to produce sufficient tears can result in dry eye.
A secondary cause of dry eye can be attributed to inflammation of the meibomian glands; located in the eyelid. A key component of tears known as the lipid or oily portion, acts to slow moisture evaporation and contributes to the stability of tears as they perform their function maintaining moisture on the surface of the eye.
Symptoms of Dry Eye
While permanent loss of vision from untreated dry eye is uncommon, symptoms can lead to discomfort.
- Burning or stinging sensation in the eye
- Pain and redness in the eye
- Grittiness or a feeling as though there is debris on the surface of the eye
Treatment of Dry Eye
Treatment of dry eye is determined by the cause of the condition. In the case of meibomian gland dysfunction, treatment is directed at the eyelids. When there is insufficient tear production, also known as aqueous deficiency, the primary approach is to replace the deficient tears. This can be accomplished by adding artificial tears.
Additionally, your doctor may prescribe an eye drop, known as cyclosporine, which works by increasing the body’s own production of its natural tears. Finally, it is sometime necessary to plug the tear drainage apparatus in order to maintain the tears on the surface of the eye longer. Omega 3 fish oils and flaxseed taken orally may also help.
Another approach for more advanced dry eye is to manage symptoms using an anti-inflammatory medication or corticosteroid eye drop. The medication objective is to decrease damage to the cornea by increasing tear production and reducing the symptoms of dry eye. Severe cases of dry eye may require more advanced treatment.
It is important to note that consulting an eye care professional is imperative if dry eye symptoms persist in order to receive an accurate diagnosis and commence appropriate treatment to avoid permanent damage.