The definition of dry eye syndrome is that it is a common condition that occurs when the eyes do not produce enough tears to keep the eye moist and comfortable. Dry eye cases have nearly doubled over the last seven years and the list of lifestyle factors that can dry out your eyes is pretty long.
It can be caused due to central heating, air conditioners, hair dryers, car windscreen demisting, air travel, altitudes, dry climate, saunas, use of contact lenses, spicy foods, alcohol, smoking, activities decreasing blinking rate like driving, reading a lot, working on the computer for a long time, etc.
The main cause is that of normal aging where the volume of the lubricating background is less than half. People with wider eyes and those taking dehydrating medicines are more at risk. Older women going through their menopause are also susceptible due to hormonal changes. Medicines like antidepressants, tranquillizers, oral contraceptives or those taken for blood pressure also increase the risk of dry eyes. Parkinson’s disease too can be cited as a cause.
While we are awake, our eyes produce a mixture of antibiotic lubricants. Blinking spreads these over the eye’s surface before draining into the two tear ducts openings. If the eye cannot make sufficient tears or the tears are too thinly spread or are chemically imbalanced, then they evaporate easily before the next blink. This causes dry spots causing sore eyes.
There are three layers of tears – the first is the mucous layer which serves as a bio-glue. It is formed by the secretion of tiny conjuctival cells in the white of the eye and inner lid. The second layer is called the aqueous layer which is produced by the lachrymal gland below the eyebrow and produces tears according to environmental conditions. When there is an irritant, extra tears are made in a reflex action to combat injury. Hence it is ironic to know that those suffering from dry eye syndrome experience watery eyes. The last layer is called the lipid layer which is oily and seals the tear film by preventing evaporation. The oily substance is derived from a gland along the edges of the eyelids. Blocked glands cause deficiency in tear lipids and dry eyes by excessive evaporation.
Usually, people understand that they are suffering from dry eye syndrome due to redness of eyes, itchiness, etc but it’s better to get it confirmed by the doctor as he is able to measure the tear production and how soon the tears evaporate.
This condition can be treated through artificial tears but it’s a temporary and short term cure that can actually worsen the dry eye condition in the long run. A more permanent cure would be to inject collagen or silicon plugs that can be inserted easily into the tear ducts which work like a plug in the drainage sink in the kitchen. These plugs prevent the tears from draining and hence the human tears are preserved. These can also be removed as easily as they are inserted under local anesthesia. This takes a short time in the clinic of the ophthalmologist.
Drinking eight to ten glasses of water daily, avoiding constant rubbing of eyes and blinking often helps to relieve the pain, stinging, itchiness, burning and intermittent blurring of vision that are some of the symptoms of dry eye syndrome.