Dry eye is one of the most common reasons to visit the eye doctor and affects over 30 million Americans. While it does become more prevalent as we age, it can affect anyone at any age.
Symptoms of dry eye can range from an annoying gritty feeling, blurriness to permanent loss of sight in severe cases.
What is Dry Eye?
Dry eye results when the natural tears are insufficient to protect, coat and lubricate the cornea.
The natural tear film is produced by the meibomian glands, lacrimal glands and cells of the conjunctiva and cornea. The tear film has 3 layers;
- oil/lipid layer
- water/aqueous layer
- Mucin or mucus layer
Defective production of any of these components can lead to symptoms of dry eye.
Symptoms of Dry Eye
Dry eye can cause a variety of symptoms to include:
- Sensitivity to light
- Blurry vision
- Eye fatigue
The tear film and surface of the cornea are responsible for about 75% of the focusing power of the eye. If the ocular surface is not smooth and lubricated, blurry vision can result. In addition, the corneal surface is chock full of nerve endings and is very sensitive. Dryness causes burning, scratchiness and grittiness.
Treatment of Dry Eye
Most mild to moderate cases of dry eye are treated with artificial tears and lubricants. The goal of topical therapy is to use the tears and lubricants often enough to prevent the symptoms of dry eye.
More severe cases may involve prescription eye drops, oral supplements, treatment for Meibomian Gland Dysfunction and punctal plugs.
Treatment of dry eye is paramount before considering any ocular surgery including cataract surgery and laser vision correction.