Dry eye syndrome is a condition that occurs when the mucous membranes of the eyes no longer produce enough tears to keep the cornea moist. This article will help you understand how dry eye syndrome occurs, how to prevent it and how to treat it if necessary.
Why does it happen?
The causes of dry eye syndrome vary from person to person. In most cases, it occurs in older people (usually women who have gone through the menopause) or in people with arthritis. Dry and tired eyes in young people indicate an impaired structure and stability of the tear film.
Symptoms may be caused by:
- Prolonged stay in an air-conditioned or heated room where the humidity is reduced;
- Hot or windy climates;
- Wearing contact lenses
- Vitamin A deficiency
- Taking diuretics, antidepressants, decongestants, antihistamines or oral contraceptives
- Cigarette smoking;
- Thyroid disease
- Improper eyelid closure;
- Parkinson’s disease;
- Sjögren’s disease;
- Closure disorders.
Symptoms of dry eye syndrome
Regardless of the cause of the condition, the symptoms are similar in many patients. Diagnosis by a specialist is required if the following symptoms of dry eye syndrome are present:
- Redness of the whites of the eyes;
- Burning, stinging or irritation;
- Increased sensitivity;
- Significant discomfort when wearing contact lenses;
- Blurred vision;
- Foreign body or sand sensation;
- Increased discomfort while reading or doing other activities.
- In people who suffer from dryness, the syndrome of the disease is often tear production. This happens because the organ no longer receives the amount of lubricant it needs to function properly and signals this to the nervous system. As a result, it fills with tears to compensate for the dryness. But at the same time, these ‘lifesaving’ tears do not have the same rich composition as normal tears and therefore cannot cover the surface of the eye. If you have at least one of the above symptoms, it is highly recommended that you visit a clinic for diagnosis. Early diagnosis can help to get rid of the condition completely.
Any ophthalmologist will begin the diagnosis of dry eye syndrome by taking a medical history. The patient’s complaints are analysed and the clinical picture of the disease is studied. Currently, the following methods are used to diagnose dry eye syndrome. During the physical examination, the specialist performs an external examination. The condition of the eyelids, their closure and the regularity and type of blinking are examined. If the ophthalmologist uses biomicroscopy of the eye to diagnose dry eye, he or she will assess the condition of the tear film and, if necessary, diagnose dry eye.
Modern ophthalmic diagnostic techniques include the use of fluorescein eye drops. Specialists use tests to determine the deterioration of the tear film and the presence of dry areas. The Schirmer test is used to accurately determine the rate of tear production, and the Norn test is used to assess the rate of evaporation of the tear film. If necessary, a smear followed by cytology may be performed to diagnose dry eye syndrome. If a medical examination reveals endocrine or systemic diseases, an ophthalmologic examination is not considered complete without an examination by an immunologist or endocrinologist.
Why is tear quality important?
There is no “gold standard” for diagnosing pathological measurements. In many cases, a diagnosis of the eye using simple tests such as those already described and used by ophthalmologists is sufficient to provide a complete picture. In addition, in most cases, the diagnosis of dry eye syndrome cannot be made without analysing the quality of the tears.
The components of normal tears are water, mucin and fat. These components work together to provide the right amount of natural lubrication. They are then evenly distributed over the surface of the cornea, protecting it from water evaporation. If there is not enough fat in the tears, symptoms of the condition appear: water evaporation, irritation, redness and eye discomfort. In such cases, it is necessary to see an ophthalmologist as soon as possible.
If the modern diagnosis of “dry eye” reveals the presence of the disease, it is not worth delaying treatment. After all, it is much easier to get rid of the syndrome in its early stages than to struggle with a disease that has been left untreated for a long time. The main approach to treatment is to eliminate or minimise the factors that influence the development of the disease. The main therapeutic goals are to stimulate tear production and to use medications that compensate for its deficiency. Treatment of dry eye syndrome is prescribed by a doctor depending on the severity of the condition.
In the initial stages, the following measures are sufficient:
- Correct your diet and eliminate conditions that can negatively affect your eyes;
- If possible, stop taking the drug causing the syndrome or switch to a drug that does not have a similar effect on the whole body;
- Clean the eyelids regularly;
- Use gels or ointments that moisturise the mucous membranes.
The above measures are suitable for eliminating the initial symptoms of the syndrome.
In many cases, artificial tears are used to replace natural tears. These eye drops consist of different components and are available with or without preservatives. If they are used for a long time, the preservatives in them can make the condition worse. Therefore, if frequent use is necessary, it is recommended to use preparations with a more concentrated, gel-like structure without preservatives.
The use of ointments is usually limited to neglected forms of the disease. As ointments do not provoke the multiplication of pathogenic microorganisms and bacteria, they do not contain preservatives. It is recommended that ointments be applied at night, as they can cause blurred vision. If the symptoms of the disease cannot be suppressed by any of the above preparations of various compositions, methods of blocking the tear ducts are used. The method of lacrimal point occlusion is highly effective, has no contraindications and can be used in children. Surgical treatment is recommended when the disease becomes chronic and there is a risk of corneal ulcer or perforation.
Early diagnosis and treatment of dry eye disease will ensure a rapid and effective recovery from this condition. Today, many eye clinics employ qualified specialists and provide services with the most modern equipment. If you know how to diagnose dry eye syndrome, you can go to your eye doctor well prepared and ask all your questions. If you are experiencing symptoms of dry eye, it is recommended that you have an eye examination as soon as possible.