Most of us have had dry eyes at least once, but did you know that chronic dry eye is actually a serious condition? According to the Mayo Clinic, if dry eye is left untreated, severe dry eye can cause eye inflammation, corneal abrasions, corneal ulcers, and vision problems. Our bodies rely on our tears to protect the surface of our eyes. Without enough tears, our eyes also become vulnerable to infection.
What is Dry Eye?
Dry eye occurs when our tears are not able to keep our eyes adequately lubricated. Our tears are made up of three main components: water, mucin, and an oil called meibum. Mucin helps spread our tears evenly across the surface of our eye and meibum prevents our tears from evaporating too quickly.
If our eyes are not able to produce enough tears, or the tears we do produce don’t contain enough mucin or meibum, then our eyes become dry and irritated. There are a variety of conditions and factors that can cause dry eye.
Dry eye related to increased tear evaporation
- Dry air, smoke, or wind
- Insufficient blinking. When using digital devices such as smartphones, tablets, or computers we typically blink less often, causing dry eye and digital eye strain.
- Eyelid problems, such as ectropion (out-turning eyelids) or entropion (in-turning eyelids)
Dry eye related to decreased tear production
- Select medical conditions including diabetes, lupus, scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome, vitamin A deficiency, and thyroid disorders
- Select medications including decongestants, antihistamines, antidepressants, hormone replacement therapy, birth control, high blood pressure medications, and acne medications
- Tear gland damage caused by inflammation or radiation
Laser eye surgery can also cause dry eye, though the symptoms are generally temporary.
Common Dry Eye Symptoms
Common dry eye symptoms include:
- Itchy eyes
- Red eyes
- Stinging or burning eyes
- Tired eyes
- Stringy discharge
- Increased sensitivity to light
- Foreign body sensation
- Blurry vision
- Problems with glare, particularly while driving at night
- Watery eyes
Watery eyes typically occur as a result of
Cutting Edge Dry Eye Treatments
Depending on the cause and symptoms of your dry eye your optometrist may recommend a variety of treatments. While some treatments, such as warm compresses or medicated eye drops, have been around for years new advances in dry eye relief technology means that dry eye sufferers now have more options. New technologies include BlephEx, Lipiflow, TrueTear, and Lacripep.
Dry eye can be caused by a condition called Blepharitis, which caused your eyelids to become inflamed, sore, and crusty. BlephEx is a revolutionary device designed to gently exfoliate your eyelashes and the edges of your eyelids to remove debris and relieve the symptoms of Blepharitis.
BlephEx is a painless and effective in-office procedure. Your optometry team will treat your eyes with numbing drops, then use the BlephEx device to gently remove the debris. This entire procedure typically takes less than eight minutes and provides immediate relief. By removing the debris BlephEx also makes it easier for your eyes to produce more tears, relieving your other dry eye symptoms naturally.
Lipiflow is a thermal pulsation device designed for in-office use that uses gentle pressure and soothing warmth to encourage your eyes to produce high-quality tears. A clinical trial conducted in 2016 found that a single session of Lipiflow was often enough to relieve symptoms of dry eye for up to three months for dry eye caused by Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD).
Researchers at the University of Virginia are in the process of developing a new dry eye treatment called Lecripep that aims to get right to the root of dry eye by preventing our eyes from becoming red and inflamed as opposed to treating the inflammation after it has already occurred. Though Lecripep is still undergoing clinical trials, early results are promising. While traditional eye drops are often washed away Lecripep is designed to remain on your eye’s surface for up to 24 hours, allowing the medication to be released slowly and providing ongoing relief.
Dry eye is an irritating condition that affects many Canadians, but treatments are available. New treatments aim to address the root cause of your dry eye, not just relieve your symptoms, and encourage natural tear production. For more information about dry eyes, or to request your next appointment, please contact Urban Optique today.