Dry eye is a common condition in which the patient doesn’t produce enough tears to lubricate and protect their eyes. Tears consist of three layers containing oil, water and mucus. If a patient has dry eye, they either don’t produce enough tears, or they produce tears that are deficient in some way. In this case, the patient’s tears either don’t spread evenly across the eyes, or they evaporate too quickly.
What Causes Dry Eye?
This condition is most commonly seen in older adults. Most people over 65 have at least some of the symptoms. Women are more susceptible than are men. Hormonal changes caused by pregnancy, birth control pills and menopause all increase the chances of a woman developing dry eye.
Other causes can include the following:
- Certain medical conditions. Problems with the eyelids like entropion can cause dry eye. People with thyroid problems, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes are also prone to it.
- Some medications like anti-histamines, blood pressure medications, anti-depressants and decongestants can interfere with tear production.
- Environmental conditions like exposure to wind or smoke can cause symptoms by increasing the evaporation of tears.
- Some eye surgeries can cause dry eye by reducing tear production.
- Prolonged use of contacts.
How is Dry Eye Treated?
It is generally treated through a combination of self-care and medication. Self-care measures include drinking lots of water to stay hydrated, taking supplements that contain fatty acids and using humidifiers and similar devices to increase the humidity in one’s home or office.
Mild cases may be treated with artificial tears. If those prove insufficient, our team may recommend eye drops that increase tear production.
Are There Surgical Procedures?
Yes. In some cases, our doctor can install punctal or lacrimal plugs in the patient’s tear ducts to prevent their tears from draining away too rapidly. The tears will stay on the patient’s eyes for a longer time and, thus, relieve their symptoms.
With surgery, our doctor may use a device that produces heat to seal the ducts closed permanently. Again, it is supposed to keep tears from draining away from the eyes too quickly.
Sometimes, the dry eye is caused by abnormalities of the eyelids. Some people have eyelids that don’t meet, and they will need to undergo surgery to repair their eyelids so that they will close properly.
When Should Someone Undergo Surgery?
Patients with dry eye that have abnormalities of the eyelids that prevent them from closing properly may want to undergo surgery to treat their eyelids. Patients with severe dry eye that has not responded to more conservative treatments like eye drops may also consider surgery. It all depends on the unique situation.