Dry eye – or the more technical ocular surface dysfunction syndrome – plagues the lives of over 16 million Americans and is likely under-diagnosed in many others.
Dry eye – or the more technical ocular surface dysfunction syndrome – plagues the lives of over 16 million Americans and is likely under-diagnosed in many others. The condition may cause blurry vision, red eyes, excess tearing, eye pain, or a constant sensation that something is stuck in the eye. There are many causes for the disorder, and in order to properly treat it, it first must be understood.
What Causes Dry Eye?
The eye is a very complex piece of machinery, and it has to have a smooth, healthy tear film to work well. Imagine taking care of your camera to ensure it doesn’t get any sand or water on the lens, always placing the cover over it, and trying your best to not drop it on the hard floor. Now compare that to how you treat your eyes, which are not something you can replace at the store later. Most common causes of dry eye occur due to:
Insufficient tear production
Rapid tear evaporation
Bacteria buildup on eyelashes
Poor eyelid closure
Eye surface inflammation
What Can Be Done About it?
The main factor in treating dry eye properly is to identify the cause. Artificial tears or eye drops are the foundation of dry eye treatment and simply try to replenish the lost water. Warm compresses can be used to help release eyelid oils and reduce tear evaporation off the surface. Cleaning the eyelashes with baby shampoo or eyelid scrubs helps remove bacteria-infested mucous crusts and reduces eye irritation. Using gel drops or ointments at night helps protect the eye from insufficient closure. Prescription drops like Restasis, Cequa, or Xiidra can be used to decrease surface inflammation and persuade the body to produce more natural tears.
Oftentimes, tear duct plugs can be used to slow down the natural drainage of tears from the eyes into the nose and allow for the natural tears to stay on the eye longer. If not enough natural tears can be made, serum tears made from the patient’s plasma can provide great dry eye relief in severe cases. In extreme cases, scleral lenses can be used to hold a water reservoir over the eye to treat the dryness. The most important thing in dry eye treatment is having a quality eye exam, which would help identify the treatments that would be most effective for each particular patient.
DR. ILYA SLUCH is a cornea specialist with Central Florida Eye Specialists. For more information, visit TheEyeSpecialists.com.
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