If you’re suffering from dry eyes, you may be surprised to learn just how common this condition is. Within a couple of decades, the incidence of this eye disease has mushroomed, making it one of the most common complaints seen in optometry practice.
Is it serious?
While mild dry eye can be more of a nuisance than anything else, severe dry eye can be extremely debilitating, with studies showing the equivalent impact on quality of life as that caused by hospital dialysis or severe angina. 1
Why is this? The density of pain receptors in the cornea of your eye is 600 times greater than skin, and 40 times greater than dental pulp, making the cornea by far the most pain-sensitive part of the body. Even a small injury, such as a compromised surface, can cause big symptoms.
Far from being just an inconvenience, this condition makes people unhappier than any other eye condition we see as practitioners, bar none. Inability to work, watch TV, or in some cases, sleep, can turn even the most reasonable person crazy.
Twenty years ago, this condition was limited to post-menopausal women and the occasional patient with an autoimmune disorder such as rheumatoid arthritis. But today, people of all ages, occupations and backgrounds suffer from this disease.
The reason? It appears to be multifactorial – meaning there is no one reason. The digital age of staring at devices for hours is certainly a factor. Other culprits include the Western diet, airconditioned environments and use of medication such as antihistamines, antidepressants and diuretics.
Up to 90% of all dry eye is evaporative, meaning that the oily tear layer is not functioning properly, and allowing the watery (or aqueous) layer to evaporate away. Eyelid problems such as blepharitis and meibomian gland dysfunction (or MGD) play a big role in evaporative dry eye.
Can it be treated?
The key take-home message is this: dry eye is much easier to successfully manage when it is mild to moderate. By the time you have severe disease, the cycle of inflammation and damage is much more difficult to break and can take many months to get under control. Signs of dry eye often show up before symptoms appear, so ask your optometrist to assess your tear function and look for early signs.
You can think of this as being a bit like having your cholesterol checked; you have no idea if it’s high or not, but if you are warned that it’s high, you can start to make lifestyle changes to protect yourself from the potentially serious consequences.
Dry eye treatments are as varied as the individuals who suffer from the disease. There is no one-size-fits-all management approach. Getting inflammation under control is the first step in successful management. Moderate to severe dry eye may benefit significantly from professional in-house treatments to kickstart your recovery.
Had enough of putting your life on hold due to dry eyes? Call The Eye Practice on (02) 9290 1899 today and claim your life back.
1- Dry Eye Disease: Impact on Quality of Life and Vision
Miki Uchino • Debra A. Schaumberg