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Dry Eye Syndrome / Disease

Signs and Symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome / Disease 

Common symptoms of dry eye syndrome (disease) include persistent dryness, scratchiness and a burning sensation on your eyes. While these symptoms alone may be enough for your eye doctor to diagnose dry eye syndrome (disease), sometimes, they opt to measure the number of tears in your eyes by placing a thin strip of filter paper at the edge of the eye, called a Schirmer test.

People with dry eyes sometimes experience a “foreign body sensation” – the feeling that they have something in their eye. Conversely, dry eye syndrome can sometimes cause watery eyes because the excessive dryness overstimulates production of the watery component of your eyes' tears.

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Lack of sufficient lubrication and moisture on the surface of the eye is referred to as dry eye syndrome or dry eye disease (DES or dry eye). Consequences of DES range from the inability to wear contact lenses and minor irritation to an increased risk of corneal inflammation and eye infections. 


What Causes Dry Eyes?

In dry eye syndrome / disease, the tear glands that moisturize the eye don’t produce enough tears, or the tears have a chemical composition that causes them to evaporate too quickly.

Dry eye syndrome (disease) has several causes.

  • The natural aging process, especially among women over age 40 - possibly due to hormone fluctuations.
  • A side effect of many medications, such as antihistamines, antidepressants, certain blood pressure medicines, Parkinson’s medications and birth control pills.
  • Living in a city like Calgary, which tends to be dry and dusty with low humidity.
  • Long term contact lens wear, eyelid disease and a deficiency of tear-producing glands. 

If your home or office has air conditioning or a dry heating system, that too can dry out your eyes. Another cause is insufficient blinking, such as when you’re staring at a computer screen all day. Recent research suggests that smoking can increase your risk of dry eye syndrome (disease).

Dry eyes are also associated with certain systemic diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, rosacea or Sjogren’s Syndrome (a triad of dry eyes, dry mouth, and rheumatoid arthritis or lupus). Dry eye has also been associated with incomplete lid closure following blepharoplasty – a popular cosmetic surgery to eliminate droopy eyelids.

 

Treatment for Dry Eye

While dry eye syndrome / disease is a chronic condition that treatments may be unable to cure, the symptoms of dry eye – including dryness, scratchiness and burning – can usually be successfully managed.

Your eye care professional may recommend artificial tears - lubricating eye drops that may alleviate the dryness and foreign body sensation. Or they may prescribe a steroid for more immediate short-term relief or prescription eye drops specially formulated for dry eye syndrome / disease to help increase your tear production.

Punctal plugs, tiny inserts filled with lubricating ingredients placed just inside the lower eyelid, is another option for dry eye treatment. Punctal plugs continuously release lubrication throughout the day to keep your eyes moist.

If you wear contact lenses, you need to be aware that many artificial tears cannot be used during contact lens wear. Remove your lenses before using the drops and wait 15 minutes or longer (check the label) before reinserting them. Contact lens rewetting drops may be sufficient for mild dry eye syndrome / disease to make your eyes feel better, but the effect is usually only temporary. Your eye care professional will be able to advise whether switching to another lens brand can help, as well as which eye drop formulas are most effective. 

The effects of sun, wind and dust can have a drying effect on your eyes so wear sunglasses when outdoors. Wraparound style sunglasses offer the best protection.

Indoors, a humidifier adds moisture to air that’s too dry because of air conditioning or heating, and an air cleaner can filter out dust and other particles from the air.

If your dry eye is caused by meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD), your doctor may recommend warm compresses and suggest an in-office procedure to clear the blocked glands and restore normal function.

Special nutritional supplements containing certain essential fatty acids to decrease dry eye symptoms may be recommended by your eye care specialist. Drinking more water may also offer some relief.

If the cause of your dry eyes is medication, discontinuing the drug will generally resolve the problem. Sometimes simply switching to another type of medication alleviates the dry eye symptoms while maintaining your treatment. Consult your doctor to explore options for alternate medication.

Treatment of underlying eyelid disease helps as well and may require steroid drops, antibiotics and frequent eyelid scrubs with an antibacterial shampoo.

Dry eye syndrome may disqualify you for LASIK or other types of vision correction surgery as you are at increased risk for poor healing. If you are considering LASIK, be aware that your surgeon will want to treat the dry eyes first to ensure a good outcome.

 

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Do any of the listed symptoms sound familiar to you? Contact us or drop by one of our locations at West Springs, Creekside, or Crowfoot and receive the eye care you need. We are here for you.

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