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Dry Eye Syndrome

What is Dry Eye Syndrome (DES)

Dry eye syndrome is a fairly common condition that occurs when:

  1. Aqueous tear deficiency dry eye occurs when the lacrimal glands do not produce enough of the watery component of tears.
  2. Evaporative dry eye occurs when the tears evaporate too quickly, this is usually due to Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD).

This results in the eyes drying out and becoming red, swollen and irritated. Dry eye is also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca.

Who It Affects

Dry eye affects up to 40% of the population throughout their life span. It is common in those over 40 and is more common in women than men and can be found in/during:

  • Disease of eyelid glands as in MGD.
  • Pregnancy.
  • Hormone replacement therapy, especially in women taking only oestrogen.
  • Some medications such as antihistamines, nasal decongestants and some blood pressure and Parkinson`s medications.
  • Some autoimmune disorders such as Sjogren`s syndrome*, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
  • Prominent or bulging eyes as in Dysthyroid eye disease
  • Exposure keratitis when the eyelids do not close completely during sleep.
  • Exposure to irritants, air conditioning or drafts.
  • Infrequent blinking as in staring at a computer screen.
  • Dry eyes tend to be more common after the menopause

*Sjogren`s syndrome is an autoimmune disease in which your immune system attacks the glands which make tears and saliva. The damage prevents these glands from functioning correctly and causing dry eyes and dry mouth.

Dry Eye Symptoms

Dry eye has a range of symptoms including:

  • Stinging, burning or a gritty feeling of the eye.
  • Pain and redness with a discharge from the eye.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Eye fatigue and heavy eyelids.
  • Discomfort with contact lens wear.
  • Decreased tolerance of sustained visual attention.

Dry Eye Treatment

The treatment will depend on the cause. If a disease is the underlying cause, that will need to be treated, and any contributing factors avoided if possible.

There are many artificial tears available without prescription (preferably preservative free), both watery ones and some which are more viscid providing both wetting and lubricating assistance. Cyclosporine, an anti-inflammatory drug is available on prescription, but as a potent drug is only recommended in severe cases, and usually takes months to be effective.

An effective therapy is the occlusion of the tear drainage openings, called the puncta either by the use of tiny plugs or permanently by applying cautery to the puncta to close them to prevent the tears that are produced from draining away.

Prevention

There are a number of things you can do to help prevent dry eye syndrome or ease your symptoms.

Diet has a role in the dry eye situation especially antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables. This is because of their anti inflammatory property. Fish, especially those rich in omega 3 fatty acids are helpful in decreasing the symptoms of irritation. To find out more sign up for my eBook.

Wearing sunglasses with wrap around shades will diminish evaporation.

Avoiding smoky environments which can exacerbate the condition can help as can stopping smoking if you smoke.

It’s also wise to avoid using eye make-up. Eyeliner and mascara can block the glands in the eyelids and cause the area around your eyes to become inflamed.

For more information download my free ebook.

Further Information

  1. Dry Eye Syndrome – Self Help: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Dry-eye-syndrome/Pages/Prevention.aspx
  2. Keratoconjunctivitis sicca: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keratoconjunctivitis_sicca

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