What are dry eyes?
The eyes need tears to keep the cornea (front of the eye) lubricated and comfortable. Dry eyes occur when the eyes do not produce enough tears or don’t produce the right type of tears.
The delicate tear film acts as a protective covering on the eye and is made of three layers. The outer layer is oily and reduces evaporation of the tears. The middle layer is watery and cleanses the eye as in crying. The inner layer is made of mucus and allows the tears to stay on the surface of the eye.
Watery tears flow into the eye from the glands located above the eye. These tears are released during injury and emotion. Lubricating tears produce the tear film, which originates in the glands located in the eyelids. This film is spread over the eye by blinking. Tears are also effective at reducing infections because they contain an antibacterial substance.
What causes dry eyes?
- Long term contact lens wear
- Environmental pollution and irritants
- Some forms of medication
- Sun and wind
- Lack of humidity
- Poor eyelid function
- Some diseases like Rheumatoid Arthritis, Sjögren’s, Thyroid and Lupus
Symptoms of dry eyes
- Blurry vision
- Stinging, burning feeling
- Scratchy or gritty feeling
- Redness and irritation
- Painful, especially when wearing contact lenses
- Excess tearing*
- Sensitivity to light
*People with dry eyes will often complain of excess tearing and watery eyes, which may seem like the opposite of dry eyes. However, in response to the irritation from dry eyes, reflex tears (as in crying) are produced. These reflex tears are not helpful to lubrication, however, because they are the watery tears, not the oily lubricating tears.
How are dry eyes diagnosed?
During the eye exam, Dr. Waters will be able to check the health of the cornea and tear film layers to determine if there are signs of dry eyes. There are times when he is able to see dry eyes and the patient isn’t experiencing any symptoms. This is why regular eye exams are important. Patient cannot achieve their best vision when the eyes are dry.
What is the treatment for dry eyes?
- Preservative-Free Artificial tears. These tears replace the moisture and are used as necessary throughout the day. It is important to use preservative-free artificial tears that come in individual vials. Bottled tears with preservatives can irritate the eye with continuous use.
- Refresh pm. This is an ointment that can be placed in the lower eyelids at bedtime, which increases comfort.
- Omega 3 vitamins. Omega 3 vitamins, such as Thera Tears Nutrition, also work with the anatomy of the eye to create more productive tears. Long term use of this vitamin is recommended for dry eyes.
- Restasis or Xiidra. These are prescription drops that can be used if over-the-counter drops aren’t effective by themselves.
- Humidifier. Patients should use a humidifier whenever the furnace is turned on.
- Punctal Plugs. These are very tiny soft plugs placed in the punctum (or tear duct) to block tear drainage and help keep productive tears on the surface of the eye.
If you have dry eyes, click here or call our office at 810-732-2272, so we can be of service.