Dry eye refers to the lack of normal lubricating tears in your eyes.
Dry eyes are usually caused by reduced tear production and/or incorrect tear fluid composition. Dry eye can be a chronic condition, most often related to aging. People over age 50 have dramatically increased rates of dry eye, and post menopausal women are especially at risk due to hormone changes.
Dry eye can also be triggered by:
Environmental conditions: Sun, wind, smog, smoke, dry climate, high altitude, air-conditioning, prolonged work at a computer or other tasks providing eye strain or reduced blinking.
Diseases: Asthma, diabetes, blepharitis, Sjogren’s syndrome.
Medications: antihistamines, antibiotics, anti-diarrheals, decongestants, diuretics, anti-hypertensive, birth control, anti-depressant medications.
Contact Lens Wear: of those patients who discontinue contact lens wear, 50% do so because of ocular dryness and discomfort.
Symptoms: In mild cases, a slight burning sensation is common and your eyes might feel dry or scratchy or you might have a sandy/gritty sensation. In moderate to advanced dry eye, you might experience blurred vision, sensitivity to light and even uncontrolled tearing.
Treatment Options: The focus of the treatment is to alleviate symptoms since there is no cure for dry eyes. Most commonly, ocular lubricants provide adequate relief from mild to moderate dry eye. In more severe cases, lubricating gels may be recommended as they usually have a longer lasting effect. Other medicated eye drops may be prescribed, if available, such as Restasis which is used twice daily to increase production of the body’s own tears. Results usually take weeks to months.
Supplements such as Omega-3 fish oil (usually 3x/day as per formulation ~100-300mg EPA & 50-200mg DHA) or Flax Seed Oil (~2-3g of oil taken 3 times a day) have been shown to be effective dry eye treatment in some patients in which an inflammatory component may be contributing to the dryness.
Punctal Plugs are also a method of treating dry eyes. Their goal is to keep the tears you do produce in the eye by reducing their natural drainage. Punctal plugs can be temporary or permanent.