A chronic condition, which is common in the Southwest, is known as keratitis sicca or “dry eyes” which means that the eyes are not being properly lubricated. The onset of dry eyes may be a result of aging, arthritis, pregnancy, vitamin deficiencies, sinus ailments, hay fever, cold symptoms, medications, wearing soft contact lenses, or allergies. Overexposure to smoke, sun, wind, smog, air conditioners, forced air-heat and hair dryers may aggravate a dry eye problem.
A shortage of tear production by the tear glands in the eyelid.
Patients with dry eyes complain that their eyes feel gritty, itchy, burning, red and dry. Other complaints are that their eyelids “stick together” in the morning or that they’re overly sensitive to light. Frequent tearing or “watering” eyes, are a common symptom in some patients, where the “emergency” tear system tries to overcome the dryness by flooding the eyes. The surface of the eye is normally covered with a three-layered surface film called the tear film. This film lubricates and moistens the eye by forming tears. Through periodic blinking, the tears are spread over the eye. Because the film’s outer layer is oily, evaporation of tears is minimized. The absence of this oily layer will increase evaporation 10 to 20 times. The middle, and thickest, layer is composed of the tears. The inner mucus layer coats the surface of the eye and holds the tear film together.
There are three ways for tears to leave the eye: By evaporation, by running over your eyelid and onto your cheek, and by running down into your nose through your tear ducts. Dry eyes cannot by cured. Its symptoms, however, can be alleviated through the use of artificial tears and eye ointments, preventing or slowing down the evaporation of tears, or by blocking or closing the tear ducts. Your doctor may recommend artificial tears, which can be purchased over-the-counter at any pharmacy.
During sleep, tear production decreases, and an ointment may be recommended for use at bedtime. It may also be helpful to prevent or slow down the evaporation of tears by using a cool-mist vaporizer or a humidifier. Blocking or closing the eye’s tear duct openings is the most effective approach to treating dry eyes. This method backs up or preserves the fluid or tears that are present. A temporary blockage is accomplished by using a punctum plug. If the result is satisfactory to the patient, a laser can be used to permanently close the tear duct
Do you have dry eyes? Up to 12 million Americans suffer from a disease called dry eye syndrome. People with dry eyes frequently experience burning and stinging of their eyes, their eyes often feel sticky, and their eyes are often red. Some people with dry eyes also have periods when their eyes get so watery that tears spill over their eyelids and run down their cheeks. Your eyes normally make small amounts of tears all day long. Tears play several important roles in keeping your eyes healthy and your vision clear. Tears lubricate the eye’s surface, wash away debris, and provide a smooth surface to help keep your vision clear. They also contain natural antibiotics that keep your eyes safe from germs that might cause infections.
Tears coat the eye in a smooth film made up of three separate layers. The layer of tears closest to the front surface of the eye is called the mucin layer. Its job is to smooth out the uneven spots on the eye surface. Next, a layer of aqueous tears covers the mucin layer. The aqueous layer is watery, and makes up the majority of the tear film. Its job is to lubricate the eye and keep it moist. The final layer of the tear film is an oily layer called the lipid layer. This is the outermost layer, and its job is to cover the aqueous layer and prevent it from evaporating.
Each layer of the tear film is made by a different part of the eye. The mucin layer is made by the eye surface itself. The aqueous layer is made by a tear gland tucked under the upper eyelid, and the lipid layer is made by small glands in the eyelids. For the tear film to do its job, all three layers have to be in their proper places in the correct amounts, like a recipe. If any layer is missing or abnormal (which can happen for a number of reasons) the tear film becomes disorganized and no longer soothes the eye like it should.
When that happens, the symptoms of dry eye syndrome occur. The front surface of the eye gets dried out (causing stickiness) and gets inflamed (causing stinging and burning). Once it gets inflamed, the eye ignores the proper tear film recipe and starts making large quantities of the aqueous layer in an effort to soothe itself. These bad tears don’t soothe the eye at all—they just run down your face, washing away the mucin and lipid layers as well. This makes the eye even more irritated, so it makes even more bad tears, and the cycle continues.
For some people, the stinging and burning and redness and watering may seem like little more than a nuisance, but in fact, if left untreated, dry eye syndrome can lead to serious eye problems, including blindness. Dry eyes are inflamed eyes. Inflammation of the front surface of the eye increases the risk of some infections and can lead to scarring. Once scarring occurs, there is a risk of permanent loss of sight.
If you have symptoms of dry eye syndrome, ask your doctor for a dry eye evaluation. Treatments are available to halt the disease and save your sight. We will discuss various treatment options more on this ophthalmology website. Are you seeking an Arizona dry eye specialist? If so please feel free to contact for a professional dry eye diagnosis. Our dry eye doctors in Arizona are conveniently located throughout the state. We also serve many patients from New Mexico as well. We realize that dry eyes cab be an extreme aggravation so we hope you give us a call if this is something bothering you.
Dry Eye Treatment Options Include:
1. Eye Drops
Undoubtedly, the most common type of dry eye treatment are over the counter eye drops. This method may not be the best treatment option available and many popular eye drops do nothing to help the dry eye problem they just soothe the eyes and provide temporary relief.
This is a pharmaceutical product that helps increase your eyes’ natural ability to produce tears. If you need more tear production it is likely you are suffering from dry eye syndrome.
Restasis® is a prescription eye drop that our eye doctors use to reduce the inflammatory component of dry eyes. This eye drop is the only FDA approved drop to help increase a person’s tear film production.
3. Punctum Plugs
The punctum plug is a small silicone or collagen plug that is inserted by an eye doctor into a tiny skin opening (punctum) in the eyelid that drains tears away from the eye.
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