An Overview on Dry Eye Syndrome
By Victor P. Giamos, M.D., Pharm.D
When our eyes are working correctly, we tend to take them for granted. We don’t consider how our eyes manage to stay moist in such dry environments as our homes and offices. However, if you suffer from dry eye syndrome, you soon realize the importance of tears.
Dry eye syndrome is a condition that occurs when the eyes do not produce enough tears or produce a poor quality of tears to keep them properly lubricated. As a result of not having enough moisture, the eyes can feel dry, itchy, and irritated. Tears are necessary for overall eye health, and without an inadequate tear film, the eyes may have a stinging or burning sensation or feel as though there is something in the eye.
Causes of Dry Eyes
Millions of people are affected by dry eye syndrome. In fact, dry eye is one of the most common complaints seen by eye doctors. Dry eye syndrome can be caused by a number of factors including, age, eye disease, systemic disease, medications, prior eye surgery, environmental factors, and contact lens use. Other environmental stressors, such as cigarette smoke and air pollution, can irritate the eyes and cause a decrease in tear production.
Older people are often more susceptible to dry eye syndrome because the aging process can decrease the effectiveness of the nerve stimulation process by which tears are produced. Dry eye syndrome may also be triggered in women during menopause due to hormonal changes. Some diseases such as Sjögren syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and rosacea make a person more likely to experience dry eyes. Lastly, medications such as birth control pills and antihistamines can cause dry eye symptoms to occur.
Dry Eye Treatment
Eye drops often alleviate the symptoms associated with dry eye syndrome. However, there are many different types of eye drops and it is important to choose a formula that contains artificial tears rather than one that just eliminates redness. Your eye doctor can help determine the cause of your symptoms and select the right type of eye drops.
If eye drops alone are not enough to eliminate dry eye symptoms, there are other treatments such as:
- Punctal plugs are a treatment option that can help conserve your own tears. Each eye has a drainage system that starts from the inner corner of the eye and drains tears into the nose. A variety of tiny plugs can block this drainage system and help your eye keep tears longer. Punctal plugs are inserted during an office visit, a procedure which is quick and painless.
- Prescription eye medication can help some patients increase tear production. Prescription tear inserts also may be helpful in more severe forms of dry eye.
- Special supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids can be helpful in certain forms of dry eye.
If you have chronic dry eye, it is really important that you see an ophthalmologist who is trained in the diagnosis and treatment of dry eyes.
Dr.Victor Giamos is an ophthalmologist, providing comprehensive ophthalmology to the patients at Ophthalmic Consultants of the Capital Region, a TearLab accredited dry eye center. His services include general ophthalmology care, dry eye treatment, as well as cataract & LASIK surgeries