Dry eye is a common condition in which the eyes either don’t produce enough tears or produce poor-quality tears. Either way, the eyes don’t get enough lubrication. It is most common in older women.
What Causes Dry Eye?
The condition has multiple causes. In some cases, the patient simply doesn’t produce enough tears, or their tears evaporate abnormally quickly. In other cases, it is caused by a problem with the composition of the tears.
Normally, tears contain three layers: oil, water and mucus. Problems with any of the layers can cause dry eye. For example, the meibomian glands, which produce the oil layer, are small glands on the rim of the eyelids. Dry eye can develop if these glands get blocked, and such blockages can be caused by rosacea, blepharitis and other skin problems affecting the eyelids.
Eyelid problems in general increase the chances of developing dry eye. Ectropion eyelids are eyelids that turn outward, and entropion eyelids turn inward.
Many conditions can decrease tear production, including the aging process. Disorders like diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Vitamin A deficiency and scleroderma can all cause dry eye. Medications like anti-depressants, antihistamines, birth control drugs, acne medicines and decongestants can cause the condition as well. Damage to the tear glands caused by radiation or inflammation can cause dry eye. Laser surgery can also cause it, but it is usually temporary.
How is it Treated?
The first step in treating dry eye is determining the cause. If the patient has a condition like diabetes, the condition should be treated first. If the problem is a medication, the doctor will help the patient find a substitute. If the patient has ectropion or entropion eyelids, they will probably need surgery.
In most cases, the patient will simply need eye drops that serve as artificial tears, and many of these products are over-the-counter treatments that can be bought at a drugstore. There are also ointments that provide longer-lasting relief than eye drops. They can cloud the vision, however, so most people only use them before going to bed. Some patients have found castor oil drops helpful in slowing down the evaporation of tears.
Taking fatty acids like omega-3 can relieve the symptoms. Fatty acids can be taken as supplements or found in foods like salmon, sardines and vegetable oils.
Dry eye is sometimes caused by an inflammation of the eyelids. In such cases, the patient can use a treatment regimen at home to both relieve the symptoms and prevent them from returning. Patients with inflamed eyelids should wash them frequently and gently. They should use a warm wash cloth and a mild soap like baby shampoo to wash their eyelids. Our doctor can also prescribe medicines to control the eyelid inflammation.
Other drugs used to treat this condition include medications for inflamed corneas and medicines that stimulate tear production. In moderate to severe cases of dry eye, the doctor might recommend an insert that works like artificial tears. In some cases, surgery may be the best option.
Talk to the Professionals
In short, Live Oak Ophthalmology in Wilmington offers a variety of treatments for dry eye. During a consultation with our experts, we can assess the condition of your eyes and come up with a treatment plan that is right for you. Contact us today to schedule your appointment.