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Dry Eyes

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“Dry eyes” is a condition that occurs when tears do not suffice the moisture requirement of the eyes that finally results in excessive dryness it the eyes. Technically dry eyes are termed as “xeropthalmia”, “Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS)” or “dry eyes syndrome”. We shall discuss this health complication in details in the upcoming content.

Types of Dry Eyes

1) Aqueous tear-deficient dry eye- The lacrimal glands do not produce adequate watery component of tears to lubricate the eye surface.

2) Evaporative dry eye- The meibomian glands are inflamed due to which the rate of evaporation of tears is increased

Symptoms associated with Dry Eyes

Apart from feeling a weird dryness in and around the eyes, the person will suffer from the following symptoms also:

  • Sensing that something is always stuck in your eyes
  • Redness in eyes
  • Burning and itching of eyes
  • Eyes feel tired and tensed
  • Accumulation of mucus in and around eyes
  • Blurry vision and difficulty in focusing

Causes of Dry Eyes

  • The tear film comprises three layers viz. the outer oily layer, the middle watery layer and the inner mucus layer; abnormality in these three layers gives rise to dry eyes. There are several underlying reasons associated with dry eye syndrome. We explain them below:
  • Drying of eyes and decreased tear production is a side effect of aging, especially after 50 and it’s also common in menopausal women
  • It can happen when the oil glands (meibomian glands) of the eyes are clogged or the lacrimal glands (tears) do not produce sufficient tear
  • “Dry eyes” is one of the side effects of vitamin A deficiency, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, thyroid problems, etc.
  • Allergies and inflammation in cornea and conjunctiva
  • Medications used during hormone replacement therapy, for treating high blood pressure, antidepressants, antihistaminesacne, etc. also cause dry eyes
  • Eye surgeries like LASIK and prolonged use of contact lens
  • Prolonged exposure to smoke, wind, pollutants, dry environment and computer
  • Diagnosis of Dry Eyes
  • Your eye doctor will examine your eyes by applying various techniques and procedures. During this process, he/she will also ask questions regarding your medical history.
  • Schirmer test- This test is done to measure the volume of tears produced by your eyes by placing blotting strips under the lower eyelids for 5 minutes. The quantity of tears soaked by strip is then measured.
  • Dry eyes are also diagnosed with special dye drops used on the eyes which produce various staining patterns on the cornea. These stains form the measure for determining the time taken for the tears to evaporate.

Treatment of Dry Eyes

Wide range of treatment options are there for dry eyes which depend completely on the underlying cause:

  • Medicines like prescription eye drops are advised to keep the eyes moist and protect from inflammation. Secondly, antibiotics are used to treat eyelid and corneal abnormalities. Eye inserts or artificial tears also inserted by doctor to lubricate the eyes. Cyclosporine is widely used to treat dry eyes.
  • Several “tear conservation” strategies are used like – permanent or temporary blocking of tear channels with punctual plugs or performing a heat treatment called thermal cautery. Unblocking the oil glands by applying thermal pulsation is also done by ophthalmologists.
  • If dry eyes are a side effect of various other complications like Sjogren's syndrome or rheumatoid arthritis, then your eye doctor might refer you further to specialty doctors.

What to Expect?

Dry eye conditions are absolutely treatable over the time. There are no as such pre preparations needed before the check up. However, if you have severe abnormalities in eyelids, then surgery may be suggested by your doctor.

Apart from getting the treatments done, make sure your diet is rich in foods containing vitamin E and omega 3-fatty acids. Also wash your eyes frequently with clean and cold water for health of your eyes.

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Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: January 05, 2015