Dry eyes are a common and chronic condition that occurs when your body does not produce sufficient tears necessary to nourish and lubricate your eye or if it produces tears of poor quality.  Poor  Tears are essential for clear vision and they make the front surface of your eye healthy as they wash away foreign matter that may be present there.

There are two types of dry eyes:

  1. Aqueous Deficiency – this involves the tear glands.  For many reasons they can slow down or stop producing tears.
  2. Lipid Deficiency – this involves the meibomian glands.  These glands produce an oily component, which is essential in keeping the tears in the eye and not allowing them to evaporate.  This type of deficiency is called evaporative dry eye or meibomian gland dysfunction.  Recent studies have shown that this type affects up to 85% of the dry eye population.

Symptoms

When suffering from dry eye syndrome, your eye would tend to exhibit the following symptoms:

•    Irritation
•    Grittiness
•    Itchy
•    Burning
•    Feeling of having something in the eye
•    Excessive watering
•    Blurred or impaired vision
•    Damage in the front surface.

Causes

While dry eyes are normally due to insufficient production of tears or to the production of tears of poor quality, here are the underlying causes of this condition:

•    Gender. Women are more prone to experience this during pregnancy, menopause or use of oral contraceptives as their bodies undergo hormonal changes.

•    Medical conditions like diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid problems and other eye conditions like blepharitis.

•    Prolonged use of contact lenses

•    Age. This is common among people over the age of 65.

•    Medications like decongestants, anti-depressants, anti-histamines and blood pressure medications.

•    Environmental factors such as exposure to wind, smoke and dry climates.

•    Laser Eye Surgery like LASIK.

•    Failure to blink regularly due to prolonged computer use.
Diagnosis

When you feel that you are exhibiting symptoms of dry eyes, you should see your eye doctor so he can conduct a comprehensive eye examination. The tests will include the following:

•    Patient history to determine what causes the condition.
•    Eyelid and cornea evaluation with the use magnification and bright light.
•    External examination of eye, lid structure and blink dynamics.
•    Tear quantity and quality measurement to check for abnormalities. This is usually done with the help of special dyes.

Treatment

Here are some treatments or procedures you may take in order to address a dry eyes condition:

•    Conserve tears by blocking ducts where the tears normally drain. Removable tiny silicone or gel-like plugs may be installed to block the tear ducts. Closure may also be permanent through a surgical procedure.

•    Treat the underlying eye condition. For instance, eye drops, ointments or eye cleaners may be prescribed to decrease eye inflammation. Warm compress and lid massage may also be recommended.

•    Add tears with the help of over-the-counter artificial tear solutions. Use as often as necessary to help natural tear production. It is advisable to use solutions without preservatives to avoid irritating the eyes.  Prescriptive eye drops and omega-3 fatty acid and other dietary and nutritional supplements may also be used.

•    Blink regularly especially when using a computer or reading for a prolonged time.

•    Protect your eyes with sunglasses especially when you are exposed to wind and sun.

•    Increase humidity level in the air at home and at work.

•    Drink eight to ten glasses of water per day to avoid dehydration.

In sum, there is nothing to worry about as this condition is fairly normal. You just need to know how avoid having dry eyes.

Some of the time though, dry eyes can be significant to the point that they can take over your life.  Recently some major advances have been made in dry eye diagnosis and treatment.  Stay tuned for some great new information that will potential revolutionise dry eyes for those people that suffer from the condition!

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