Dry Eye Syndrome (DES)
Solutions to a Common Eye Problem
What Is Dry Eye Syndrome?
It is a condition where the body is not able to make enough tears to protect the front surface of the eye and provide good quality vision. Our tear film is crucial to good vision as well as to eye health and comfort.
How Tears Work
The tear film has three layers:
1.The innermost layer – mucus, which helps the middle layer to spread evenly across the eye;
2. Diluted saline solution – (aqueous layer), produced by the tear glands inside the upper eyelids, which flushes debris out of the eye. Defects in this layer most commonly cause DES.
3.Lipid layer – (fats or oils), produced by oil glands in the eyes, which helps prevent the middle layer from evaporating.
Who Gets DES
Dry eye syndrome is a very common disease, affecting an estimated 25 to 30 million people in the U.S. Most commonly affected are contact lens wearers, computer users, post-op surgical patients, people living in arid environments, and people over the age of 55.
Causes of Dry Eye Syndrome
When the body is not able to make enough tears to protect the eye’s surface, corneal surface cells deteriorate or even die, leading to a variety of symptoms that affect both comfort and vision. Some factors which can lead to dry eyes:
- The mix of chemicals which can be in the air
- Hormone changes
- Auto-immune disease
- Eye surgery
- Contact lens wear
- Eye infections
- Drugs such as oral antihistamines, anti-depressants or hormone replacement therapy
- Dry Eye Symptoms
- Trouble wearing contact lenses
- Blurred or fluctuating vision
- Itchy, gritty, or burning eyes
- Tired eyes when reading
- A tendency to get eye infections
The first step is finding an eye doctor who will take time to accurately determine the cause of your dry eye and discuss treatment options with you. There are many therapies available to treat dry eyes and either increase or retain your own natural tears. The therapy that is right for you depends on the cause of the dry eye condition.
- Eye moisture can be promoted either by adding to the amount of natural tear film, or by blocking some of the drainage out of the eye. There are many over-the-counter varieties of moisturizing eyedrops and some that must be prescribed. Sometimes a lubricating ointment is used.
- Tears drain from the inner center of each eye, through tiny openings called puncta (singular is punctum). The upper and lower lids have one each. Tiny channels lead from these openings into the general nasal drainage system. Little plugs can be placed in one or more of the puncta to slow down the drainage of tears from each eye.
Some treatments work with nutritional supplements and some with oral and topical medications. Typically, several months of daily treatment are needed for significant improvement.
Therapeutic goals are to control or eliminate the symptoms, to maintain and preserve visual acuity, and to prevent complications secondary to inflammation and dryness. If you suffer from dry eyes ask for a consultation to make your vision more clear and your eyes more comfortable.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, LASIK surgeon Dr. Gary Kawesch is highly qualified in treatments for many eye conditions and will be happy to give you a free eye exam.