Eye Conditions

Dry Eye Syndrome

What is dry eye syndrome?

Dry eye syndrome is a condition in which your eyes do not produce enough tears or the tears do not have the normal chemical makeup. Another name for dry eye syndrome is keratoconjunctivitis sicca.

Why does it occur?

Normally, your body produces 2 types of tears:

  1. Lubricating tears: which are produced all of the time. They help keep your eyes moist and clean and help fight infection. The tear film that forms contains layers of water, mucous, and oil. Dry eye can occur when one or more of these layers is not normal.
  2. Reflex tears: which are produced in response to injury, irritation (such as smoke or toxic chemicals) or emotion. They may be produced in response to dry eye, which is why some patients with dry eyes feel that their eyes are watery or tearing.

What causes dry eyes?

  • Aging: You may not produce enough tear or your tears may be of poor quality
  • Your environment: Dry air may cause your eyes to dry out
  • Your activities: Reading, driving, or looking at a computer screen cause you to blink less because you are concentrating on the task.
  • Medicine: Some medications may decrease your body’s ability to produce lubricating tears. Examples of such are antihistamines, birth control pills, diuretics, and beta blockers.
  • Disease: Some systemic diseases reduce tear production. These include some types of arthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), leukemia, and Stevens-Johnson syndrome.
  • Eyelid problems: the position of the eyelids and the ability of the eyelids to close properly are crucial in keeping the eyes lubricated.
  • Burns: chemical or heat can affect your ability to produce tears.
  • Sometimes there is no exact cause of dry eyes.

What are the symptoms?

  • Scratchy, gritty, burning sensation
  • Sharp pain that only last a few seconds
  • Excessive watering
  • Stringy mucous in your eyes
  • Matted eyelids that are difficult to open upon wakening
  • Blurred vision that fluctuates with blinking, severe cases can cause blurry vision that does not fluctuate

How is it diagnosed?

Having a discussion and examination with your ophthalmologist so that a treatment plan tailored to your specific concerns and type of dry eye is important. You doctor will put drops in your eyes, examine your tears and eyes, and in some cases measure your tear production to determine what intervention is helpful to treat the dryness. Unfortunately, there is no cure for dry eye. Treatment is targeted at improving your comfort, but most importantly keeping the surface of your eye healthy.

How is it treated?

There is no cure for dry eye. Depending on your symptoms and the cause of your dry eye your doctor will recommend a tailored treatment regimen to try to reduce your symptoms. The most common treatment of dry eye is using over the counter lubricants, or artificial tears to supplement the lack of your body's natural tear production. There are medications that your doctor may recommend that either try to stimulate your body's natural production (Restasis) or control the inflammatory aspect associated with some form of dry eye (steroid eye drops). Also a simple, in office procedure, can place either absorbable or silicone plugs into the opening of the drains of your tear ducts to decrease how quickly you drain tears from your eye. Your doctor will examine your eyes and recommend the treatment or combination of treatments for you.


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