The occasional feeling of dry, irritated eyes, maybe because of a particularly dry or windy day, is nothing to be worried about. Everyone experiences dry eyes sometimes, especially those who work on computers every day. However, when that feeling of dry, irritated eyes is happening every day, you may be dealing with a bigger problem: dry eye syndrome.
If this is you, you aren’t alone. Staggering amounts of people deal with dry eye syndrome each year – ranging from mild to chronic and severe symptoms.
What Is Dry Eye?
Dry eye syndrome is a condition that causes the eyes to feel dry, itchy, and irritated. Dry eye is most often caused by a lack of lubrication and moisture on the surface of the eye. More than the occasional itchiness, dry eye syndrome is often a chronic condition that is more complex than people think.
To understand how dry eye occurs, one must understand how the tear film works.
Understanding the Tear Film
Dry eye syndrome can be caused by a number of factors, but the most common causes are a lack of tear production and a lack of quality tears. This means that, even if the eye is producing enough tears, if one of the tear film components is lacking, dry eye can occur.
The three components of the tear film are:
- The oil (or lipid) layer: this component is produced by the meibomian glands that line the eyelid margin. The outermost layer of the tear film, the oil layer is responsible for keeping the rest of the tear film from evaporating, as well as allowing for equal tear distribution over the corneal surface.
- The water (or aqueous) layer: this is the middle layer, and is produced by the lacrimal glands located behind the upper eyelids. This layer provides nutrients to the cornea, lubrication, and washes out any debris.
- The mucous-like (or mucin) layer: this layer is produced by goblet cells in the conjunctive that covers the white of the eye. This is the innermost layer and keeps the eye lubricated, as well as acts as a protective layer against infection and debris.
The most common form of dry eye, referred to as evaporative dry eye syndrome, occurs when the oil layer is lacking. When someone has evaporative dry eye, it means that their meibomian glands are either not producing enough oil, or there is a blockage in the glands that keeps oil from flowing through. When the oil layer is not present, the rest of the tears evaporate quickly, leading to dry eye symptoms.
Dry Eye Symptoms
Dry eye symptoms are different for everyone. If you have any of the following symptoms on a daily or frequent basis, you may have dry eye syndrome. The most common dry eye symptoms include:
- Burning sensation
- Itchy eyes
- Aching sensation
- Heavy eyelids
- Fatigued eyes
- Blurry vision
- Sore eyes
- Red eyes
Dry Eye Treatments
Dry eye treatments vary greatly based on your symptoms and the root cause of your dry eye syndrome.
At Advanced Valley Eye Associates, we offer the following dry eye treatments:
- Lubricating eye drops and ointments: Lubrication is key to keeping dry eye symptoms at bay. For people with mild dry eye, this treatment can be enough to avoid other treatments. For those with severe dry eye, drops and ointments are usually combined with more robust treatments. Eye drops are available without a prescription.
- Prescription eye drops: For those with more severe symptoms, or if over-the-counter drops don’t work, stronger medicated eye drops may be prescribed. Here at Advanced Valley Eye, we offer Restasis® and Xiidra® drops. Restasis® helps improve the root issue by helping your eyes produce more of their own tears over time. Xiidra® drops reduce inflammation by reducing the secretion of inflammatory cytokines.
- Punctal plugs: If drops and ointments do not work, the semi-permanent punctual plugs are another option. These tiny plugs are implanted into the drainage ducts in your eyes and keep tears from draining too quickly. This keeps tears in the eyes for longer.
Please schedule a dry eye appointment with us at Advanced Valley Eye Associates!