Everyone has probably suffered the sensation of dry eyes at some point. The dry, gritty feeling can be brought on temporarily by a lack of sleep, dry climate, and many other environmental factors.
However, in some people, dry eyes can be a constant problem and one that requires treatment to bring relief.
Dry eye affects millions of people worldwide, and is one of the most common reasons that patients visit their eye doctor. Our tears are a complex mixture of water, oils and mucus.
When vision is healthy a balance exists between the tear layers. If an imbalance occurs with one or more of the tear layers the tear system breaks down and dry spots develop. This is called dry eye and occurs due to insufficient production of tears, or excessive evaporation of the tear film.
Dry eyes are uncomfortable and can impact vision throughout the day. Patients who suffer from chronic dry eye find it difficult to perform everyday activities, which can significantly decrease their quality of life. Dry eyes occur for a number of different reasons.
These include age, gender, medications, and environmental conditions. Other factors include long term contact lens use, and refractive procedures such as LASIK, which can cause decreased tear production. The key to managing dry eye is to recognise the symptoms early and seek treatment from an eye care professional. Without treatment, chronic dry eye can lead to impaired vision, eye infection and scarring.
Because there are so many different causes of dry eyes, your treatment will depend on your individual symptoms and the cause of your condition. Most treatments for dry eyes involve either replacing tears or reducing tear drainage.
There are a variety of dry eye treatments available to provide relief from dry eye.
There have been many advances in the treatment of dry eyes in recent years. We have a new treatment for severe dry eye, cyclosporine eye drops, which can greatly help this. We sometimes insert a hydrogel insert into the tear drainage system, which gently slows tear flow away from the eye, so that your natural tears stay in your tear film for longer, causing less dry eye problems.
Once your eye care professional identifies the underlying cause of your dry eye, he or she will work with you to design a flexible treatment plan customised to your needs. If your dry eye is caused by your environment or behaviour, you may be advised to make small changes.
These can be as simple as reducing the speed of ceiling fans in your home – or remembering to blink more often when you use computers. Your eye care professional might recommend drinking more water or eating foods or supplements high in omega fatty acids or vitamin A.
Your tear production may also be the cause of your dry eye. Eye drops including prescription medications, artificial tear drops, gels, or ointments are often used to increase eye moisture or tear production and may be used in combination with other treatments.
Another option, called punctal plugs, retains tears in the eye by blocking the tear drainage canal. If you are experiencing dry eye as a result of another condition, your eye care professional will also treat that cause. For example, if you wear contact lenses, you may need to try other types of lenses. If you have inflamed or clogged eyelid glands, your doctor will offer methods to treat the glands ranging from at-home lid hygiene techniques, to in-office procedures. Let us work with you to find the best course of treatment for your dry eye!
Artificial tears are a good temporary solution to dry eyes. They can provide immediate relief and are available without prescription. However, if you need to use eye drops more than three times a day, you should use preservative-free drops which are also safe to use with contact lenses.
If your dry eyes cannot be relieved with eye drops it may be necessary to reduce your tear drainage. A procedure called ‘punctal occlusion’ can be used to permanently or temporarily close off your tear drainage channels, allowing you to retain your own natural tears without the need for eye drops.
At Exeter Eye you will always be seen by a qualified ophthalmic surgeon with experience in dry eye syndrome, who will carefully assess your symptoms and design a personalised treatment plan for you.
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Exeter Eye is a specialist ophthalmic eye clinic treating all eye conditions and offering the very best in patient care and comfort. We always ensure we fully understand your condition and lifestyle before identifying your treatment options and then help you choose the best one for you.