Itchy irritated eyes? Trouble with your contacts? Is night driving becoming difficult? If any of these problems sound familiar you may be suffering from a condition called dry eye syndrome. This treatable condition is caused when the eyes do not produce enough tears to keep your eyes lubricated, free of irritants and protected from infection. While short term dry eye can be caused by smoke, dust, wind or fatigue, chronic dry eye symptoms occur frequently and often interfere with daily activities.
What causes dry eyes?
Inadequate tear production is the obvious cause of dry eyes but the reason for poor tear production is varied. One of the most common causes of dry eye is aging. Most people over 65 experience some degree of dry eyes. Other causes are:
- Gender – Hormonal changes in women during pregnancy and menopause
- Medication side effects – blood pressure medication, antihistamines
- Diseases -rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, thyroid disease
- Eyelids – inflammation (blepharitis), physical abnormalities
- Work – long exposure to computer screens, exposure to dust, irritants
Diagnosing dry eye
When symptoms become commonplace, or when eye drops no longer provide relief, a visit to Atlantis Eyecare in Torrance to see an ophthalmologist will quickly determine if your dry eyes need medical treatment.
Symptoms such as chronically itchy, red or irritated eyes, eyes that always feel tired or a feeling that there is something in your eye should be recognized as good reasons to arrange an exam. Other symptoms that are fairly common in dry eye patients are difficulty wearing contact lenses, blurry vision, increased difficulty when driving at night and frequent over tearing. This last symptom may seem contradictory but it is an over response to chronically dry eyes.
During an eye examination, one of our eye doctors will review all medications you are taking, ask questions about your general health and will askif there are environmental irritants at home or at work that could be causing your dry eyes.
A physical exam of your eyes and eyelids will be done to evaluate the quantity and quality of your tear production and the health of your cornea and the oil producing glands in your eyelids.
Once a diagnosis has been made, your dry eyes treatment will focus on three general areas; tear quality and production, treating inflammation or treating problems with tear duct drainage capacity.
Tear fluid is composed to three substances; oil, water and mucus. These three components are responsible for keeping the eyes evenly moist and free of debris. In some patients, the volume of tears produced is normal but the quality of the tears is not. Prescription eye drops which both stimulate tear production and provide needed moisture are usually adequate to treat this issue.
The eyelids cover and protect the eyes but they also produce oil from tiny glands at the edges of the upper and lower eyelids. If the ducts become blocked due to inflammation, tear quality suffers. Your dry eyes treatment will consist of prescription ointment or eye drops and frequent cleaning of the eye and eyelids.
Preventing tear loss
In some patients, the tear ducts drain fluid too quickly causing dry eye. One treatment option is to plug the drains with gel or tiny silicone plugs so that moisture is retained in the eye. These plugs can be removed once adequate tear production has been established.
Dry eyes can be treated
At Atlantis Eyecare we encourage our patients to come in at the first sign of trouble. Dry eye syndrome can result in vision loss if the eyes are constantly under hydrated. Infections and inflammation also cause secondary eye health problems.
If you are at all concerned about your tear production, call for an appointment to find out if you have dry eye syndrome and if so, to get started with your treatment right away.