This condition is exactly how it’s described; drying of the fluid on the surface of the eye, called the cornea, due to either lack of lubricant (oil, water, or mucus) or poor quality of lubricant. Typically a chronic, long-lasting issue, dry eye is very typical, especially in senior citizens and people with preexisting vision issues.
To further understand the causes, let’s examine how a typically functioning eye works. When a person blinks, fluid from a myriad of ducts located around the eyeball and eye lid are released in the form of tears to lubricate, protect, and wash away foreign debris from the environment. After the tears have distributed evenly across the cornea, any excess fluid typically gets drained into a tear duct and funnels into the nose and throat. As stated previously, there are two primary reasons dry eye occurs:
Diminished volume of tear fluid – Your body produces all the materials necessary to create proper lubricating tears. As with many other bodily functions, the volume of tears reduces with age, medical issues, or environmental factors like excess heat or winds.
Low quality of tear fluid – Typically functioning tear glands produce water, oil, and mucus; each serving a vital purpose. The water ensures the cornea stays hydrated, the oil protects the water from evaporating on the eye and protects the cornea from foreign objects, and the mucus ensures that all the fluid distributes properly across the entire eye. When one of these functions is out of balance it can cause irritation and/or drying of the top of the eye.
Causes of Dry Eye
Primary factors to cause this ailment typically stem from your environment or current health.
- Age – Senior citizens are most susceptible to this condition
- Gender – Dry eye statistically happens more to females due to chemical imbalances caused by contraceptive medication, menopause, or hormonal changes from pregnancy
- Environmental considerations – Smoke, windy, or dry areas cause tear fluid to evaporate prematurely
- Medical issues – Arthritis, diabetes, or thyroid issues are the leading medical causes of dry eye. Inflammatory issues of either the eyelid or cornea can also complicate lubrication of the eye.
- Medicine – Specific medications that deal with the ear, nose, and throat can often translate to a reduction in fluid production
Diagnosing the Illness
A very straightforward diagnosis, dry eye can easily be classified during a regularly schedule eye exam with your optometrist. During the evaluation, your doctor will typically review the below:
- Your patient history to see if there is a history of illnesses which may contribute to your symptoms
- Review of the physical structure of your eye, eyelids, and ducts
- Measurement of the quality and volume of fluid produced from the eye
Although a chronic and reoccurring illness, dry eye can be easily managed, and virtually reversed with the application of proper, sustained treatment. Let’s take a look of some of the typical treatments available:
- Artificially producing more tears – Over the counter eye droplets can be purchased to supplement insufficient tear production
- Preserving tear fluid – Converse to artificially adding fluid, there are steps you can take to attempt and preserve what fluids your body does produce.
- Blocking tear ducts through artificial means by a medical professional to reduce excess drainage
- Permanently closing tear ducts to eliminate excess drainage of fluid
- Stimulating increased production of fluid – In addition to over the counter eye drops, your doctor can administer eye fluid which actually stimulates the body to produce more of the naturally occurring tear fluid
- Treating chronic inflammation – Perhaps the issue isn’t from medication or lack of fluid. Your doctor may attempt to administer creams or other medication to treat inflammation as the root cause of the dry eye.
Personal Vision Care
There are several ways one can protect their vision through self-care including:
- A conscious effort to blink more while straining the eyes (focusing on small text, utilizing a television or computer monitor for excess periods of time)
- Wearing protective eye wear outdoors to prevent the drying of the eyes through direct sunlight and exposure to winds
- Purchasing a humidifier for your home
- Keeping a healthy diet – this can be especially helpful if supplemented by good, fatty omega-3 pills or foods high in omega-3’s such as fish
- Staying properly hydrated
Dr. Joseph Cohen O.D.
Woodland Hills Optometrist
Receive an excellent service on a comprehensive eye care
Providing service in English and Farsi for American and Iranian Patients
19737 Ventura Blvd., Suite 201, Woodland Hills, CA 91364