Everyone experiences dry eyes from time to time. It could be due to any number and combination of external factors. Dry climates, allergies, dust, and airborne particles can all cause dry eyes.
Chronic dry eyes or dry eye syndrome may not seem like a big deal. But left untreated, it can progress until it causes real and permanent damage.
If you are constantly struggling with dry eyes, it may be time to seek professional help to relieve your symptoms. Keep reading to learn more about dry eyes and how you can treat them.
Dry Eye Symptoms
Symptoms of dry eye syndrome can range from mild irritation to damage to your eyes and eyesight. It can cause some or all the symptoms listed below, depending on the severity.
Dry eye symptoms include:
- Stringy mucus in and around the eyes
- Light sensitivity
- Redness and swelling
- Foreign object sensation (feeling something in your eye, even when there isn’t)
- Blurry vision
- Tired eyes
- Watery eyes (your body overcompensating for dryness)
The Causes of Dry Eye
Chronic dry eye syndrome can come from one or multiple sources. Aging is the most common and is unavoidable. As you age, your body doesn’t work as well as it used to.
Diseases and medical conditions can also cause dry eyes. It is not uncommon for dry eye to be a side effect of medications or as a complication from eye surgery.
There is even evidence that suggests there is a genetic component to chronic dry eyes. Regardless of what is causing your dry eye, there is one key factor you must know, in order to treat it.
What is relevant to treatment is whether the source of the problem is causing you not to produce enough tears or produce low-quality tears. It’s also important to know if you are making an inadequate amount of low-quality tears.
Healthy tears are necessary for healthy eyes. They deliver nutrients and keep eyes hydrated.
They also form a protective barrier around the eye, creating a first-line defense against infection. If your eyes do not produce enough tears, then they cannot function properly.
Tears include three primary ingredients, each of which serves a different function. These ingredients are water, mucus, and oil. The water in a tear contains the nutrients necessary to keep the eye healthy and hydrated.
Mucus helps the water spread across the entire surface of the eye instead of pooling. This ensures the whole surface of your eye gets the nutrients and hydration it needs.
Oil coats the outside of the tear. It forms a barrier that prevents tears from evaporating off your eye. By keeping tears on your eyes, the oil helps them remain hydrated and healthy.
Lack of Oil is a Common Cause of Dry Eye Syndrome
If you have a problem with tear quality, it is usually indicative of a problem with oil production. Tear oil comes from glands in the edges of your eyelids called meibomian glands.
Healthy meibomian glands freely produce lipids as tears flow into the eye. But over time, they can become clogged with clumps of waxy deposits or swell shut from irritation.
Blocked meibomian glands can create a situation where you over-produce tears but still have dry eyes. This odd situation happens because your tears are evaporating, which tells your eyes you need more tears.
More tears get made and immediately evaporate due to a lack of oil. The only way to end this cycle is to unclog your meibomian glands and get oil back into your tears.
Untreated, dry eye can lead to many problems. These issues include corneal abrasions, scarring, and severe infection.
As the problem gets worse, you will experience more symptoms and more discomfort. Timely treatment of your dry eyes can prevent damage to your eyes.
Treating Dry Eye
Effective dry eye treatment varies significantly from patient to patient. There are numerous ways to go about treating dry eye syndrome. Often a combination of the following treatments works best.
You can combat dry eye on your own with lifestyle adjustments. Start by eliminating habits that can lead to dry eye like smoking or too much screen time without breaks.
Also, take some time to blink throughout the day intentionally. Even though it seems strange, blinking and holding your eyes closed tight a few times a day will stimulate oil production and keep your eyes better hydrated.
Keep a Clean Home
An easy way to reduce dry eye symptoms is to keep your house and office clean and humid. Get rid of dust and allergens with regular cleaning and use an air purifier to keep your air clean. A humidifier will also reduce symptoms by ensuring your air has moisture in it.
Begin by using over-the-counter eye drops to help combat the discomfort. They can be relieving and cooling, which will help to reduce the urge to rub your eyes.
You should avoid rubbing your eyes when they feel irritated. Doing so won’t relieve your symptoms and can cause permanent eye damage.
Prescription Eye Drops
Prescription eye drops can help you reduce irritation and inflammation. Your eye doctor will help you find the eye drops best suited to your situation.
Punctal plugs are devices that your eye doctor can implant in your eye. They block the drains in your eye, which helps to keep more moisture on the surface of your eyeball.
There are permanent and dissolvable types available. Your eye doctor can discuss punctal plugs with you as a possible option for eliminating dry eye.
LipiFlow for Dry Eye Syndrome and Meibomian Gland Dysfunction
LipiFlow treatment is an in-office dry eye treatment for dry eyes caused by meibomian gland dysfunction. It uses heat and gentle pulses on your eyelids to remove blocks in your meibomian glands.
It will unblock your glands so they can produce oil again. Within six to eight weeks of LipiFlow treatment, your meibomian glands will be able to make oil again.
The positive results from your LipiFlow treatment should last for a year. After that, if your symptoms return, additional treatments are an option.
Are you ready to get rid of your dry eyes once and for all? Schedule an appointment at Ellis Eye in San Francisco, CA, today!
Dry eyes don’t have to be a burden on your life. There are treatments available, and we will help you find the best option for your situation!