What is dry eye?
The normal tear film which coats the surface of the eye has three layers: water, mucous and fat. Dry eye can be due to a problem with one or more of these layers.
Most commonly, dry eye is due to decreased production of the watery layer, or problems with the fatty layer which normally coats the watery layer.
The watery tears evaporate, so the tears become more salty, and this causes discomfort and interferes with the nutrition of the surface of the eye.
There is a spectrum of disease – from the stinging and burning we may all feel when our eyes are tired, to a severe condition that can lead to death of the cells on the surface of the cornea.
Very rarely, there can be a problem with the lacrimal gland – which makes tears in response to emotions or trauma – but usually there is just a problem with the surface layers of the eye, where small amounts of tears are made constantly to keep our eyes lubricated so that our lids can blink without getting stuck!
What causes dry eye?
Dry eye is caused by oxidative damage. This may be aggravated by age, sun damage, stress, inflammatory conditions – especially autoimmune diseases – diabetes, contact lens wear, eye surgery, and omega-3 oil deficiency.
What are the symptoms?
The water evaporates from the tears, so they become salty and sting and burn.
The eyes can feel sandy and gritty, especially in the morning.
How can you treat dry eye?
Until recently, we have only been able to offer lubricant drops, which replaced the tears the eyes were no longer making.
Now, we have treatments available.
Preservative-free lubricant eye drops are hypotonic (less salty than normal tears), so they dilute the salty tears, improving the comfort of the eye. If used regularly, they can help to reverse the dry eye condition by changing the chemistry of the tears and encouraging the surface layer of the eye to regenerate, increasing the numbers of the goblet cells, which make the tears.
Tears again spray coats the watery tears with a fatty layer, stabilising the tear film and reducing evaporation. It also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Omega-3 oils, such as flax seed oil and purified fish oil, thicken the oily layer of the tears and reduce surface inflammation.
If used regularly as prescribed, these treatments can turn your chronic dry eye condition around.
If these are of limited benefit, autologous serum eye drops, which are made from your own blood, can provide additional support for your ocular surface, and we can assist you in applying for these.
Please Contact the Clinic if you would like to know more.