The what and why of dry eye
Even though we like it when our customers are happy, we’re stoked when there isn’t a dry eye in the house! Because dry eye is a condition where the eye’s tears don’t adequately moisturise the eye. The symptoms of dry eye include burning, stinging, red eyes and blurry vision. It’s one of the most common eye conditions, and frankly, it isn’t much fun.
The tear film covering the surface of the eyes consists of three parts: lipid layer, aqueous layer and mucin layer. The lipid layer prevents the tear film evaporating from the eye. The aqueous layer contains salts and proteins to maintain the cornea and protect the eye from infections. The mucin layer helps the tear film adhere to the eye and is also a defence against surface damage.
Dry eye occurs when any number of factors cause a moisture imbalance in the tear film, which then may cause damage to the ocular surface (that’s the outermost surface of your eye). Low aqueous layer flow and excessive evaporation causes hyperosmolarity, which means the saltiness of the tears has significantly increased. Hyperosmolarity can cause inflammation and damage to the cornea.
Severe dry eye has the potential to significantly reduce vision and cause great discomfort to people suffering from it.
Treatments for dry eye
Unfortunately, dry eye is not curable, and can be chronic in most cases. Treatment focuses on maintaining a good balance within the tear film to reduce symptoms.
Standard treatments for dry eye involve lubricant eye drops, gels and ointments. Lubricating the eyes compensates for the tear-film imbalance, and also helps reduce symptoms.
Gels and eye ointments tend to stay in the eyes longer than lubricant eye drops, but due to their thickness they may cause blurry vision and are recommended for use before sleeping.
Lid hygiene regimes such as warm compresses and eyelid scrubs help maintain the health of the eyelids, which produces the tear film’s lipid layer. Warm compresses involve warming up the glands by placing a heated washcloth on the eyelids, to ensure the oils can flow unimpeded into the tear film. Eyelid scrubs cleanse the lash base from build-up by gently scrubbing with a solution of non-irritating soap and water.
Punctal plugs are used to block the puncta of the eye, which is a structure where the tear film drains from the eye. The plugs increase the tear-film volume by stopping tear clearance.
Anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial eye drops may be used in more severe cases of dry eye to reduce inflammation within the eye.
Omega-3 is important to maintain the tear film’s quality: increasing your consumption of this, through diet and/or supplements, can be beneficial in dry eye patients.
How to reduce your risk
To help prevent dry eye from occurring, we recommend you:
- Reduce the time you spend on computers or other electronic devices, and take regular rest breaks. When these devices are used, the eyes tend to blink less and there is greater tear evaporation.
- Avoid or limit time in air-conditioning or windy environments.
- Reduce how often you wear contact lenses, or be re-fitted for contact lenses that do not dry the eyes.
- Maintain a diet rich in Omega-3.
- Check with a doctor whether any prescription or non-prescription medications might affect your tear film.