dry eye syndrome
Dry Eye Syndrome is the decline of the quality or quantity of tears bathing the eye. Symptoms include redness associated with a sandy or gritty sensation that, if untreated, can lead to constant pain from eye irritation, scarring or ulceration of the cornea, and thus loss of vision. If the dry eye condition is related to the quality, rather than the quantity of tears, then excessive tears may be produced in response to the irritation. An eye exam should always be scheduled when there is eye redness, to rule out an infection, and further assessment will reveal the cause of the symptoms and the appropriate therapy needed.
About 10 million Americans suffer from dry eye syndrome. Most of these cases result from normal aging of the glands in the eye, but dry eye can occur at any age. It is estimated that nearly 75% of people over age 65 will experience dry eye syndrome. It occurs in both men and women, although it is most common in women who are pregnant or post-menopausal. People suffering from allergies and those wearing contact lenses have greater risk of developing dry eye. People who are sensitive to pollen, dust or smoke can easily worsen their dry eye condition by exposure to these irritants.
In many cases, dry eye results from disorders of the various glands which work together to produce normal tears. Tears themselves are a complex combination of substances which form three layers on the eye. The very thin outer layer contains lipids from the meibomian glands in the eyelid, to reduce evaporation. The lacrimal glands produce the middle watery layer that keeps the salinity and the acidity of the tears at proper levels. This middle layer also carries antibodies and other immune defense agents to defend the eye against infection. The inner mucous layer helps the tear film "stick" to the cornea and stay intact.
Dry eyes are typically treated by applying artificial tears and ointments which give temporary relief but usually do not arrest or reverse damage to the eye. Other treatment may include the use of punctal plugs. These plugs are made of collagen or silicone and are inserted where the tears drain to keep them around the eye longer.
Please call Dr. Schneid if you have any questions or if you are symptomatic and would like to make an appointment for a tear assessment.