Dry eye occurs when the eye does not produce tears properly, or when the tears are not of the correct consistency and evaporate too quickly. In addition, inflammation of the surface of the eye may occur along with dry eye. If left untreated, this condition can lead to pain, ulcers, or scars on the cornea, and some loss of vision. However, permanent loss of vision from dry eye is uncommon.
Other names for dry eye include dry eye syndrome, keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), dysfunctional tear syndrome, lacrimal keratoconjunctivitis, evaporative tear deficiency, aqueous tear deficiency, and LASIK-induced neurotrophic epitheliopathy (LNE).
What are tears, and how do they relate to dry eye?
Tears, made by the lacrimal gland, are necessary for overall eye health and clear vision. Tears bathe the surface of the eye, keeping it moist, and wash away dust and debris. They also help protect the eye from bacterial and other types of infections.
Tears are composed of three major components:
- Outer, oily, lipid layer produced by the meibomian glands
- Middle, watery, lacrimal layer produced by the lacrimal glands
- Inner, mucous or mucin layer produced by goblet cells located within a thin transparent layer over the white part of the eye and covering the inner surface of the eyelids.
Tears are made of proteins (including growth factors), electrolytes, and vitamins that are critical to maintain the health of the eye surface and to prevent infection.
Tears are constantly produced to bathe, nourish, and protect the eye surface. They are also produced in response to emergencies, such as a particle of dust in the eye, an infection or irritation of the eye, or an onset of strong emotions. When the lacrimal glands fail to produce sufficient tears, dry eye can result.
Any disease process that alters the components of tears can make them unhealthy and result in dry eye.
What are common symptoms?
Common symptoms include blurred or variable vision, sensitivity to light, pain or feelings of dryness, burning and/or stinging sensations.
What causes dry eye?
Dry eye can be caused by:
- Side effects of certain drugs
- Air conditioning, heating systems, or ceiling fans
- Dry environments
- Improper contact lens use, fit, and solutions
- Computer use
- Eyelid disease or structural problems with the eyelids
- Cigarette smoke
How is dry eye treated?
Although there is no cure for dry eye, treatment may range from artificial tears and lubricating eye drops, gels or ointments to surgical procedures. In addition, a change in working environment or lifestyle may also help treat dry eye.
Our eye care professionals will recommend the best treatment plan for your specific type of dry eye.
If you think you’re experiencing dry eye, then contact our office today for more information or to schedule an appointment.