What is it?
Dry eye syndrome is a disorder of the tear film due to tear deficiency or excessive evaporation, which causes the eyes to become dry, inflamed and uncomfortable and may damage the ocular eye surface.
There are two main reasons for the occurrence of dry eye syndrome:
First when the eyes can’t make enough tears, sometimes called aqueous deficient dry eye. There are many causes of this, one of the most common is simply the natural ageing process. The Lacrimal glands are involved in production of the aqueous (watery) component of the tear film.
Second is when the tears evaporate too quickly from the eye surface. The most common cause of excessive tear evaporation is blockage and dysfunction of the Meibomian oil glands (MGD). The Meibomian glands are responsible for producing a lipid layer (oily film) over the surface of our tears. MGD may also be associated with inflammation of the eyelid margin when the condition is termed Posterior Blepharitis.
Who gets it?
Dry eye syndrome is a common condition, with up to a third of people experiencing it at some point in their life. While anyone can develop dry eye syndrome, it is most common in people over the age of 60. The condition is also more common in women than men.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of dry eye syndrome can be mild, moderate or severe and may include:Feelings of dryness, grittiness or soreness in both eyes, which get worse as the day goes on
Feelings of dryness, grittiness or soreness in both eyes, which get worse as the day goes on
Redness of the eyes
Watery eyes, particularly when exposed to wind
Eyelids stuck together on waking up
Eyes feel worst first thing in the morning
Burning feeling in eyelids, or itchy eyelids, red rims of eyelids
What Causes it?
Dry eye syndrome can be caused or made worse by many things, including your envirometn, illness, side-effects of medicinces, hormonal changes and simpy getting older. In many cases there is not one single, identifiable cause- it is often a mixture of things associated with the tear film.
How is it treated?
Following a diagnosis of dry eye syndrome, your doctor or optometrist will initially focus on identifying and addressing lifestyle/environmental factors that may cause or worsen your symptoms. These include:
Smoky or dusty environments
Air conditioning/heaters in the home or car
Prolonged viewing of computer screens
Contact lens wear
Use of redness-relieving eyedrops such as witch hazel
A good level of daily water intake will also be encouraged to aid hydration. As omega-3 fatty acids may reduce tear evaporation and inflammation, oral supplements or dietary intake via oily fish (salmon, sardines) or flax seed oil is also often recommended.
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