Dry Eye Syndrome

What is dry eye?

Dry eye syndrome occurs when not enough tears are made to lubricate the surface of the eye, or when the tears that are made are inefficient. Risk of dry eye is greater in women, and with advancing age.

What are the symptoms of dry eye?

Symptoms of dry eye can vary from person to person. Often, patients will feel a scratchy sensation or a foreign body sensation. Other symptoms include stinging or burning, excess tearing, discharge, pain, and redness in the eye. An adequate tear film is required to see clearly. Therefore, many patients with severe dry eye will experience blurred vision. Severe dryness can even compromise the front surface of the eye, known as the cornea leading to infection and scarring.

What causes dry eye?

Dry eye occurs when not enough tears are produced, tears evaporate too quickly, or the composition of tears is imbalanced. Tears contain more than just water. A healthy tear film will have an oily layer, a water layer, and a mucin layer. Factors that can contribute to dry eye include the following:

  • Age – dry eye is more common in people age 50 years or older due to decline in tear production.
  • Medications – including antihistamines, decongestants, antidepressants, birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy to relieve symptoms of menopause, and medications for anxiety, Parkinson’s disease, and high blood pressure.
  • Medical Conditions – autoimmune disorders such as Sjögren’s syndrome, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis. Rosacea (an inflammatory skin disease) and blepharitis (an inflammatory eyelid disease) can disrupt the composition of tears.
  • Gender – women more likely to develop dry eye. Hormonal changes during pregnancy and after menopause have been linked with dry eye
  • Environmental Conditions – Windy, smoky, or dry environments increase tear evaporation.
  • Other Factors – Seasonal allergies, prolonged periods of computer screen time, Laser eye surgery

How is dry eye diagnosed and treated?

People experiencing dry eye symptoms should consult an eye care professional to determine the cause, which guides treatment strategy. Your physician will perform a thorough evaluation of the ocular surface and order any relevant testing. Based on the results of your exam and testing, you physician will prescribe a management plan that will work best for you.