This phrase was originally intended to refer to an emotional response to a dramatic performance. That was not my intent here. I’m referring to my goal to eliminate the our community from suffering from dry eye disease. That would be my goal. It’s clear that I’ve fallen short or I wouldn’t be writing this article! In fact statistics show that between 7-33% of people suffer from dry eye disease. We call it a disease because it is unhealthy for the eye to be dry. Dry eye can present itself as irritation, scratchiness, redness, blurred or fluctuating vision and intermittent eye watering. Some people have significant irritation to the surface of their eyes from dryness and are not aware of it. The other extreme is a dry eye that causes pain and blurred vision to the point where it is disabling. The percentage of people with dry eyes increases with age. Untreated dryness can progress into a dry eye crisis in some people.
Dryness can be caused from multiple causes. Let’s look at a few of these:
- Dehydration (Not drinking enough water)
- Fatigue or prolonged stress
- Rheumatologic conditions
- Blepharitis (Unhealthy/ inflamed eyelids)
- Hormone imbalance (declining female and male hormones)
- Contact lens wear
- Decline in tear production that comes naturally from age.
- Chronic allergies of the eye
- Incomplete closure of the eyelids
Each one of the list above could be an article in itself. Dryness in some cases is not always from not having enough tears but can be from the wrong proportions of different components of your tears. The tears are made up of three main components produced by different glands around the eye and in the eyelid. The three main layers of your tears come from watery, oil of mucus secretions. There are also enzymes in your tears that help reduce the rate of eye infections. The most common contributor of dry eye problems comes from improperly working meibomian glands embedded in your eyelids that are supposed to produce a thin clear layer of oil that floats on the surface of your tears. This oily layer prevents your tears from evaporating too quickly and adds to the volume. It is very common for these glands called meibomian glands to become inflamed leading to poor quality and quantity of oil secretions. This leads to red irritated eyes usually worse on awakening and inconsistent vision that is more pronounced when concentrating on things like your computer or when the wind is blowing.
Fortunately there are many good treatments available to reverse the effects of dry eye and help maintain the health of your eyes. Some of these treatments include artificial tears, use of certain nutritional supplements, anti- Inflammatory eye drops, tear saver plugs, hot compresses, and mechanical devices to help restore tear production. As you can see dry eye is not just one condition but can result from a variety of issues that lead to either not enough or poor quality of tears. These symptoms can be mild or severe. I caution that if you have dry eye symptoms you should seek advice from an eye doctor with experience in the treatment of dry eye. Dry eye symptoms that are ignored tend to get worse over time require a longer time to resolve. The treatments are usually simple and painless and can be covered by your health insurance plan. Please feel free to call our office if you are one of the many who have issues with your eyes being too dry.