Dry Eye Syndrome is when the eye is unable to maintain a healthy layer of tears to coat it. The eye depends on the flow of tears to provide constant moisture and lubrication to maintain vision and comfort.

Tears are a combination of water (for moisture) oils (for lubrication) mucus (for even spreading) and antibodies and special proteins (for resistance to infection). These components are secreted by special glands located around the eye. When there is an imbalance in this tear system, a person may experience dry eyes. When tears do not adequately lubricate the eye, a person may experience:

  • Pain
  • Light sensitivity
  • A gritty sensation
  • Itching
  • Redness
  • Blurring of vision

Sometimes, a person with a dry eye will have excess tears running down the cheeks, which may seem confusing. This happens when the eye isn’t getting enough lubrication. The eye sends a distress signal through the nervous system for more lubrication. In response, the eye is flooded with tears to try to compensate for the underlying dryness. However, these tears are mostly water and do not have the lubricating qualities or the rich composition of normal tears. They will wash debris away, but they will not coat the eye surface properly.

Causes more…close
Dry eyes can be caused by situations that dry out the tear film. This can be due to:

  • Ageing
    One of the most common reasons for dryness is associated with the natural ageing process. As we get older our bodies produce less oils, including the oily outer layer of the tear film. This oily layer forms a protective coating over the tears and stops them from evaporating. A deficiency in this protective layer allows tears to evaporate and leaves areas of exposure on the surface of the eye. Certain medications can influence the quantity/quality of tears produced.
  • Medications
    Oral Contraceptive Pill
    Decongestants – used in hay fever and sinusitis control
    Beta Blockers – used in control of blood pressure
    Diuretics – used in fluid control
  • Medical conditions
    Thyroid conditions
    Vitamin A deficiency
    Parkinson’s Disease
    Sjogren’s Syndrome
  • Hormonal Changes
    Women frequently experience problems with dry eyes as they enter menopause because of hormonal changes.
  • VDU Work
    People working on VDUs may find they experience dryness symptoms specifically at work. It has been reported that people working on VDUs for long periods at a time tend to blink less often. This allows tears to evaporate more readily.
  • Physical Causes
    Eyelid abnormalities

    Blocked meibomian glands which produce the protective oily layer of the tear film.

    Damage to the glands producing the tears may also affect the volume of tears produced.
Treatment more…close
The ideal treatment would be to eliminate the cause of the problem but that is not always possible. People need to take certain medications and could put their health at risk if they stopped just so as to avoid the side effect of dry eyes. It is probably not practical to avoid air conditioning or central heating if you work in an office. So the following are available options:

  • Artifical tears and ocular lubricants
    Your GP can prescribe drops and ointments, usually available without prescription, to help lubricate the eye and alleviate symptoms. Often a watery drop may be used during the day and a thicker gel-like ointment at night.
  • Punctal occlusion
    Reversible blocking or occlusion of the punctual ducts where the tears drain away from the eye allows tears to be retained in the eye and ease symptoms. This method of treatment does not work for everyone, is only indicated in certain cases and is reversible – the plugs can simply be removed.
  • Omega–3 Oils
    In recent years, studies have reported that a diet rich in Omega 3 oils can reduce the risk of developing dry eye and to ease symptoms. Two of the best sources of omega-3s are dark, oily, cold-water fish, and flaxseeds. Flaxseed oil is available in liquid form, capsule form and can be ground down from the natural seed.
General Advice more…close
Blink more frequently if working on a VDU or reading for long periods.
Avoid excessive exposure to air conditioning and central heating where possible.
If you wear contact lenses ask your optometrist about high moisture or silicone hydrogel contact lenses.
Get some extra omega-3 oils into yor diet.

Here at The Optical Shop, we have lots of experience in trhe treatment of dry eyes so please feel free to call in for advice

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