Dry Eye

Dry Eye

Dry eye is a condition in which a person does not have enough quality tears to lubricate and nourish the eye. It occurs when the quantity and/or quality of tears fail to keep the surface of the eye lubricated. As a result, those who have dry eyes can experience a scratchy sensation or the feeling that something is in their eye. The effects of dry eye can range from minor dryness and discomfort to pain and blurred vision. From blinking to tear production, dry eye can develop for many reasons. In fact, dry eye syndrome is one of the most common eye conditions. So common that people of all ages regularly experience dry eye symptoms.

Tears are as important to our eyes as air is to our lungs.

The Importance of Tears

Tears play an important role in keeping us healthy. Not only are tears important to the overall healthy functioning of the eye, they are also important to vision. Tears bathe the surface of the eye to keep it moist and wash away dust and debris that could damage the cornea and lead to an eye infection. Tears are as important to our eyes as air is to our lungs. In fact, their role is so important to maintaining the healthy functioning of the eye, ignoring any symptom of dry eye even if it is minor is not suggested.

What Tears Are Made Of

What Tears Are Made Of

Your tears are a complex mixture of fatty oils, mucus, water, and more than 1500 different types of protein. This mixture works together to keep the eye smooth and protected from the environment, infectious pathogens, and irritants. Our tear film has three layers:

  • Oily Lipid Layer: produced by the Meibomian glands, this layer’s main purpose is to seal tear film which helps reduce evaporation of our natural tears
  • Aqueous Layer: produced by the lacrimal gland this layer performs the key function of tears, such as to supply nutrients to the cornea, prevent infection, and heal damage
  • Mucin Layer: produced by the goblet cells, this layer helps distribute tears across the surface of the eye uniformly (plays an important role in tear stability)

Our tears contain natural antibiotics called lysozymes. They help keep the surface of the eye healthy by fighting off bacteria and viruses. And, because the cornea has no blood vessels, the tears provide a means of bringing nutrients to its cells. Which is why blinking is so important.

The Importance of Blinking

Computers, TVs, and other digital devices can cause dry eye symptoms. That’s because using these devices affects how we blink. When working at a computer or using our smartphones or other digital devices, we tend to blink less fully and/or frequently. This increases tear evaporation, which increases our risk of developing dry eye symptoms. Blinking is important! That’s because with every blink, our eyelids spread a fresh layer of tears across the surface of our eyes to keep them moist, comfortable, and healthy.

Each blink brings nutrients to the eye surface structures keeping them healthy.

What Causes Dry Eye?

Dry eye can occur when tear production decreases, tear evaporation increases, or tear composition is imbalanced. Age is one of the most common causes of dry eye. That’s because we produce fewer tears as we age. But there are a lot of other factors such as using the computer for too long, hormonal changes, and being in a dry, windy environment. From the placement of your favorite seat, to the city you call home, there are a ton of environmental factors that increase your risk of dry eye symptoms. Whether you live in a city with a dry climate or one known for gusty winds, where you live can affect your eyes.

Dry Eye Symptoms

Symptoms of dry eye disease, which usually affect both eyes, include:

  • A stinging, burning, or scratchy sensation in your eyes
  • Stringy mucus in or around your eyes
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Eye redness
  • A sensation of having something in your eyes
  • Having difficulty wearing contact lenses
  • Difficulty driving at night
  • Having water eyes, which is the body’s response to the irritation of dry eyes
  • Blurry vision or eye fatigue

if you experience any of the symptoms associated with dry eye frequently or for longer than a week, you should schedule an appointment with your eye doctor.

Dry Eye

When to See Your Eye Doctor

Dry eyes are a common condition that in some cases is temporary. Circumstances like staring at screens or experiencing the Santa Ana winds call be causes of temporary dryness. However, for those who use artificial tears three or more times a day, your condition may be more chronic. Additionally, if you experience any of the symptoms associated with dry eye frequently or for longer than a week, you should schedule an appointment with your eye doctor. That’s because, the longer the condition goes untreated, you increase your risk of damaging the front surface of eye, or developing an eye infection.

Diagnosing & Treating Dry Eyes

A comprehensive eye exam that includes a complete history of your overall health and your eye health can help us diagnose the cause of your dry eyes. The first step is to measure the amount of tears in the eyes. The next step is determining the quality of your tears; we do this by using special eye drops to determine the surface condition of your eyes.  If you need more information on our eye exams or need help booking an appointment, call us at (805) 522-7007 or send us a message.