What is dry eye disease?
This common condition occurs when the eyes do not produce enough tears or when the tears that are produced are of poor quality, causing discomfort and potentially leading to more serious eye problems.
What are the symptoms of dry eye disease?
Symptoms of dry eye disease can include:
- Eye discomfort or pain
- A burning or stinging sensation
- A feeling of grittiness or sand in the eye
- Blurred vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Increased tear production (watery eyes)
In addition to causing discomfort, chronic dry eye disease can also lead to more serious problems such as ulcers, infections, and scarring on the eye.
What causes dry eye disease?
- As people age, their tear production naturally decreases, which can lead to dryness and discomfort in the eyes. This decrease in tear production is due to a reduction in the number and function of the lacrimal glands, which are responsible for producing tears. In addition, the quality of tears also tends to decline with age, which can exacerbate dry eye symptoms. Older adults may also be more prone to certain medical conditions or medications that can cause or worsen dry eye disease. Overall, while aging alone may not necessarily cause dry eye disease, it can increase the risk and severity of the condition.
- Meibomian gland dysfunction, which is one of the top underlying causes of dry eye disease, occurs when the meibomian glands located in the eyelids become clogged or blocked, leading to a decrease in the production of the oily substance that lubricates the eye and prevents tear evaporation.
- Certain medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and Sjögren’s syndrome, can lead to dry eye disease.
- People who spend hours each day in front of a computer screen may experience dry eye symptoms as their blink rate tends to decrease.
- Blepharitis, which is a common condition that affects the eyelids and can cause inflammation, can also lead to dry eye disease by clogging the oil glands in the eyelids or by causing damage to the oil glands that produce the oily layer of tears.
- Demodex mites are normally found on human skin, but when they occur in large numbers on the eyelashes, they can cause inflammation, redness, itching, and a feeling of grittiness in the eyes.
What are treatment options for dry eye disease?
Treatment for dry eye depends on the severity of the condition and the underlying cause(s). Dry eye can be temporary or chronic. If your dry eye is chronic, our optometrist can recommend treatments to help you maintain optimal eye health, reduce dryness and discomfort, and prevent vision impairment.
Common treatments for dry eye include:
- Prescription eye drops to reduce inflammation
- Treating oil glands
- Blinking exercises or proper eyelid hygiene
If an infection is causing your dry eye symptoms, your eye doctor may also prescribe low-dose antibiotics. In more serious cases where other treatments are ineffective, surgery or therapy may be recommended.
To effectively treat dry eye disease, it’s important to get a customized evaluation of the underlying causes. Our doctors will perform a thorough evaluation of your eyes to determine the cause of your dry eye symptoms and provide tailored treatment options. Contact us today to schedule an evaluation for dry eye disease.