Dry eye syndrome and its effects
Dry eye syndrome (DES), also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca, is a common ocular condition that affects millions of people worldwide. DES is characterized by a lack of sufficient lubrication and moisture on the surface of the eye, resulting in discomfort, irritation, and inflammation. The condition can be chronic, and if left untreated, it can lead to vision problems and even blindness. This article will discuss the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options for DES.
Causes of Dry Eye Syndrome:
The main cause of DES is a deficiency in the quality and/or quantity of tears produced by the eyes. The tears play a critical role in keeping the surface of the eye lubricated and moist, which helps to protect the eyes against various irritants and infections. Tears are composed of three layers: the lipid (oil) layer, aqueous (water) layer, and mucin layer. A deficiency in any of these layers can lead to DES. The following are some of the common causes of DES:
Age: As people age, the production of tears decreases, leading to DES.
Medical conditions: Various medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome, lupus, diabetes, and thyroid disorders can cause DES.
Medications: Certain medications such as antihistamines, antidepressants, and diuretics can cause dry eyes.
Environmental factors: Exposure to wind, smoke, and dry air can cause DES.
Contact lenses: Wearing contact lenses for an extended period can cause DES.
Symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome:
The symptoms of DES can vary from person to person, and they can range from mild to severe. Some of the common symptoms of DES include:
Dryness: A feeling of dryness or grittiness in the eyes.
Irritation: A feeling of irritation or burning in the eyes.
Redness: The eyes may appear red due to inflammation.
Sensitivity to light: People with DES may experience sensitivity to light.
Blurry vision: Vision may become blurry, especially when reading or using a computer.
Difficulty wearing contact lenses: People with DES may have difficulty wearing contact lenses.
Diagnosis of Dry Eye Syndrome:
If you suspect that you have DES, you should consult an eye doctor. The doctor will perform a comprehensive eye exam and evaluate the quantity and quality of your tears. The following are some of the tests that your doctor may perform:
Schirmer’s test: This test measures the quantity of tears produced by the eyes.
Tear breakup time (TBUT): This test measures the time it takes for the tears to break up on the surface of the eye.
Corneal staining: This test uses a special dye to detect any damage or irregularities on the surface of the cornea.
Meibomian gland evaluation: This test evaluates the function of the meibomian glands, which are responsible for producing the lipid layer of tears.
Treatment of Dry Eye Syndrome:
The treatment of DES depends on the underlying cause and severity of the condition. The following are some of the common treatment options for DES:
Artificial tears: Artificial tears are available over the counter and can be used to lubricate the eyes.
Prescription eye drops: Prescription eye drops such as Restasis and Xiidra can be used to treat inflammation and increase tear production.
Punctal plugs: Punctal plugs are small plugs that are inserted into the tear ducts to prevent tears from draining too quickly from the eyes.
Lifestyle changes: Making lifestyle changes such as taking breaks when using a computer, avoiding smoke, and using a humidifier can help alleviate the symptoms of DES.