Dry Eye

Dry eye syndrome, if neglected, can advance and become chronic, potentially leading to serious, irreversible damage.

Up to 49 million Americans have dry eyes and the prevalence trend is only increasing.

Dry eye disease can be progressive and chronic, and if left untreated, can cause severe permanent damage. This condition is increasing in prevalence as society becomes more dependent on digital screens, making dry eye a persistent issue, but it can be controlled and managed.

It is important to consult with an optometrist about managing dry eye disease and making the proper adjustments to lifestyle and environment to reduce symptoms.
Take the Dry Eye Quiz to find out if you suffer from dry eyes

What are the symptoms of dry eyes?

If you are experiencing any of these, please consult with an optometrist to help relieve the symptoms as there are a variety treatment options available.

Risk Factors of Dry Eyes

If you are experiencing any of these, please consult with an optometrist to help relieve the symptoms as there are a variety treatment options available.

Risk Factors of Dry Eyes

There are a multitude of risk factors and it’s important to be aware of them in order to do what you can to make adjustments when possible and to seek guidance from an optometrist.

Some top risk factors are:

  • Older population - the majority of the population above age 65 experience dry eye symptoms but the prevalence of dry eyes increases after age 40
  • Women - women have a 70% increase in risk of dry eye disease  
  • People of Asian heritage

Medical risk factors:

  • Meibomian gland dysfunction
  • Sjorgens syndrome 
  • Thyroid problems
  • Connective tissue disorders
  • Diabetes
  • Lupus 
  • Various medications such as antidepressants, antihistamines blood pressure medications  
  • Hormone replacement treatment 
  • Refractive eye surgeries, such as LASIK
  • Inflammation of the eyelids, known as blepharitis and other eyelid conditions

Environmental risk factors

  • Use of air conditioning/ fans
  • Low humidity
  • Windy conditions
  • Dry climates 

There are also risk factors which may be able to be adjusted, including:

  • Extended digital screen usage 
  • Wearing contact lenses - people who wear contact lenses are 4 times more likely to develop dry eyes than people who do not use contact lenses 
  • Smoking/ exposure to secondhand smoke 

Over 86% of people with dry eyes exhibit signs of meibomian gland dysfunction

Meibomian gland dysfunction is the most common cause of dry eye disease.There are 3 essential layers in your tears, one of them is the oil layer which originates from the meibomian glands in your eyelids. If there is any issue with the tiny meibomian glands, such as an obstruction, it can cause meibomian gland dysfunction which causes dry eye disease in the majority of cases. Meibomian gland dysfunction can also cause blepharitis which is an inflammation of your eyelids. In fact, meibomian gland dysfunction, blepharitis and dry eye disease are often found together.

How is Dry Eye Treated?

There are many effective treatment options for dry eye, each catering to specific causes and symptoms. It is also important to treat any underlying medical conditions. Below is an overview introducing the various types of treatment options:
  • Omega 3 nutritional supplement to increase tear production
  • Proper eyelid hygiene
  • Warm compresses used to remove obstruction of oil glands
  • Variety of eye drops
  • Tiny silicone plugs, called punctal plugs used to close the tear ducts
  • Special contact lenses
  • Prescription steroids to decrease inflammation
  • Prescription antibiotics for infection
  • Light therapy to open blocked meibomian glands

It is essential to know that there are many treatment options available to relieve symptoms, so consulting with an optometrist can improve quality of life.

Treatment Options

Each type of treatment option serves its own purpose, making it important to consult with an optometrist to find the best method for each individual. For example:

Proper Eyelid Hygiene

This is essential for everyone, including those with blepharitis. This condition is treated with a special eyelid cleaner available in optometrists' clinics. It only takes a few minutes for an optometrist to clean the eyelid margins using specialized equipment, and maintaining hygiene with regular treatments is recommended.

Warm Compress

Used to remove obstructions in the oil glands, there are different kinds:

  • Eye Mask: Special eye masks can be used at home. They simply need to be microwaved and then placed on top of the eyes to clean the eyelids and eyelashes, although they do not express the glands.

  • Thermal Pulsation Treatment: Provided in clinics by optometrists, this treatment is considered by many specialists as the top method for treating meibomian gland dysfunction. It gently heats and massages the eyelids, allowing the glands to express and resume natural oil production, creating a much healthier eye surface.

Eye Drops

There are many different types of eye drops, sold under different names, each treating different symptoms and causes of dry eyes:

  • Artificial tears are used to lubricate and preserve moisture on the outer surface of the eye
  • Cyclosporine reduces swelling in order to increase tear production
  • Lifitegrast reduces inflammation and is often used together with cyclosporine