Dry Eye Syndrome
What is dry eye syndrome?
Dry eye syndrome, also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca, is a common condition in which the eyes do not produce enough tears, or the tears evaporate too quickly, leading to dryness, irritation, and discomfort.
Who's at risk for dry eye syndrome?
Dry eye syndrome can affect people of all ages, but it is more common in older adults, especially women, and in people who wear contact lenses or have certain medical conditions, such as autoimmune diseases or thyroid disorders.
What causes dry eye syndrome?
Dry eye syndrome can be caused by a range of factors, including:
- Age-related changes in tear production
- Hormonal changes, such as those that occur during pregnancy or menopause
- Medications, such as antihistamines or antidepressants
- Environmental factors, such as exposure to wind, smoke, or dry air
- Medical conditions, such as autoimmune diseases or thyroid disorders
- Eye surgery, such as LASIK or cataract surgery
How does dry eye syndrome start?
Dry eye syndrome may start gradually or suddenly, and symptoms may vary depending on the severity of the dryness. Symptoms may include dryness, burning, itching, or a gritty sensation in the eyes, as well as redness and blurred vision.
What are the symptoms of dry eye syndrome?
The symptoms of dry eye syndrome may include:
- Dryness, burning, itching, or a gritty sensation in the eyes
- Redness and irritation
- Sensitivity to light
- Blurred vision or difficulty seeing at night
- Eye fatigue or discomfort when reading or using a computer
- Excessive tearing, as the body tries to compensate for the lack of moisture in the eyes
How is dry eye syndrome diagnosed?
Diagnosing dry eye syndrome involves a combination of symptoms evaluation and diagnostic tests. A healthcare provider may ask about the person's medical history and conduct a physical exam. They may also order tests such as a Schirmer's test or tear breakup time test to help measure tear production and quality.
How can dry eye syndrome be treated?
Treatment for dry eye syndrome may include:
- Over-the-counter or prescription eyedrops, which may help lubricate the eyes and reduce inflammation
- Warm compresses or lid massage, which may help unclog blocked oil glands in the eyelids
- Punctal plugs, which are small devices that are inserted into the tear ducts to help prevent tears from draining too quickly
- Prescription medications, such as anti-inflammatory drugs or immunosuppressants, that may help reduce inflammation in the eyes
- Lifestyle changes, such as avoiding dry environments, using a humidifier, or taking breaks when reading or using a computer
What complications may occur with dry eye syndrome?
If left untreated or poorly managed, dry eye syndrome can lead to a range of complications, including:
- Corneal damage, which may affect vision and require surgery
- Eye infections or ulcers, which may be painful and require medical treatment
- Eye inflammation or scarring, which may affect vision and require medical treatment
How can I prevent dry eye syndrome?
Preventing dry eye syndrome involves making healthy lifestyle choices, such as:
- Maintaining a healthy diet that includes omega-3 fatty acids, which may help improve tear production
- Drinking plenty of fluids, especially water, to help keep the body hydrated
- Wearing protective eyewear, such as goggles, when exposed to dry or windy environments
- Taking breaks when reading or using a computer, to avoid eye strain and fatigue
Long-term management of dry eye syndrome
Managing dry eye syndrome over the long term involves ongoing monitoring of symptoms, regular healthcare provider visits, and following a treatment plan as prescribed by a healthcare provider.
What is recent research saying about dry eye syndrome?
Recent research in dry eye syndrome has focused on developing new treatments and therapies to improve symptoms and prevent complications. Some of the promising areas of research include:
- Novel drugs and biologics that target specific inflammatory pathways in the eye, to help reduce inflammation and improve tear production
- Medical devices, such as wearable devices or implants, that can help stimulate tear production or prevent tear evaporation
- Stem cell therapies, which may help regenerate damaged tissue in the eye and improve tear production
Where can I go for more information on dry eye syndrome?
If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with dry eye syndrome, it is important to seek help from a healthcare provider who specializes in the treatment of the condition. The following organizations also provide information and resources on dry eye syndrome: