Dry Eye Syndrome
The continuous production and drainage of tears are important to the eye’s health. Tears keep the eyes moist and protect against eye infection.
In people with dry eye syndrome, the eye produces fewer or lower-quality tears and is unable to keep its surface lubricated and comfortable. The main symptom of dry eye is usually a scratchy or sandy feeling as if something is in the eye. Other symptoms may include stinging or burning of the eye, episodes of excess tearing that follow periods of very dry sensation, a stringy discharge from the eye and redness of the eye.
What Causes Dry Eye Syndrome?
Dry eye usually occurs in people who are otherwise healthy. It becomes more common with age. This can occur due to hormonal changes that make your eyes produce fewer tears. Dry eye can occur in climates with dry air, as well as with the use of some drugs, including antihistamines, nasal decongestants, tranquilizers, and anti-depressant drugs. People with dry eye should let their health care providers know all the medications they are taking since some of them may intensify dry eye symptoms. Dry eye may also be caused by sun exposure, smoking or second-hand smoke exposure, heat or chemical burns or as part of diseases that affect the ability to make tears, such as Sjogren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and collagen vascular diseases.
How is Dry Eye Syndrome Treated?
During a comprehensive eye exam, your eye doctor may order additional tests such as diagnostic staining of the cornea and tear film, measurement of tear film break-up time (TBUT), measurement of the rate of tear production (Schirmer’s test), and a measurement of the concentration of tears (osmolality). The first step in treatment is usually the use of artificial tears, which lubricate the eye. They are available over-the-counter as eye drops. No one drop works for everyone, so you may have to experiment to find the drop that works for you. If your eyes dry out while you sleep, a thicker sterile ointment can be used.
Sometimes it is necessary to close the ducts that drain tears out of the eye. This can be done with a plug that is inserted into the tear drain of the lower eyelid. This will hold tears around the eyes to improve lubrication. The plugs can be removed if necessary. If needed, the ducts that drain tears into the nose can be permanently closed to allow more tears to remain around the eye.
Wolfe Eye Clinic has experts in dry eye syndrome throughout Iowa, including Ames, Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Fort Dodge, Iowa City, Marshalltown, Ottumwa, Spencer, Waterloo, and Pleasant Hill.
Please contact Wolfe Eye Clinic at 1-800-542-7956 to ask any corneal disease or dry eye syndrome-related questions or to schedule an appointment with one of our corneal disease specialists: Dr. Steven Johnson, Dr. Todd Gothard or Dr. Matthew Rauen.