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Behind the Blink: Unveiling The Science of Dry Eye Syndrome

Posted: Jun 17 2024

Understanding Dry Eye Syndrome

Dry eye syndrome, also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca, is a common condition that occurs when the eyes do not produce enough tears or when the tears are not of the correct consistency and evaporate too quickly. This can lead to inflammation and damage to the eye’s surface. In this comprehensive guide, we explore the causes, symptoms, and treatments of dry eye syndrome, including surgical options and life post-diagnosis, to help sufferers manage this condition effectively.

What Causes Dry Eye Syndrome?

Dry eye syndrome can result from a variety of factors, which can be broadly categorised into two groups: decreased tear production and increased tear evaporation. Here are some common causes:

  • Age: Tear production tends to decrease as you age, making dry eye syndrome more common in older adults.
  • Medical conditions: Certain diseases such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma, thyroid disorders, and vitamin A deficiency can contribute to dry eyes.
  • Medications: Some medications, including antihistamines, decongestants, hormone replacement therapy, antidepressants, and drugs for high blood pressure, can reduce tear production.
  • Environmental conditions: Exposure to smoke, wind, and dry climates can increase tear evaporation leading to dry eyes.
  • Long-term use of contact lenses: Can contribute to the symptoms of dry eye syndrome.
  • Gender: Women are more likely to develop dry eyes due to hormonal changes due to pregnancy, the use of oral contraceptives, and menopause.

Symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome

Symptoms of dry eye syndrome can range from mild to severe and typically affect both eyes. Common symptoms include:

  • Stinging or burning sensation: Often an immediate sign of dry eyes.
  • A gritty or scratchy feeling, as if something is in your eye.
  • Redness of the eyes.
  • Sensitivity to light.
  • Blurred vision, which may improve with blinking.
  • Eye fatigue, especially after reading or using a computer for an extended period.
  • Difficulty wearing contact lenses.
  • Excessive tearing, which is a response to the irritation of dry eyes.

Treatment and Management

Treatment for dry eye syndrome aims to restore or maintain the normal amount of tears in the eyes, thereby minimizing dryness and related discomfort and maintaining healthy eye surfaces. Management strategies include:

  • Lubricating eye drops: Also known as artificial tears, they are the primary treatment for dry eye syndrome and can be used to supplement natural tear production.
  • Prescription eye drops: These can include medications that reduce inflammation around the surface of the eyes or help produce more tears.
  • Lifestyle and home remedies: Increasing the humidity in the air at work and at home, wearing sunglasses outdoors to reduce exposure to wind and sun, and taking eye breaks during long tasks that require concentration.
  • Nutritional supplements: Omega-3 fatty acids, commonly found in fish oil, have been shown to reduce symptoms of dry eyes.

Surgical and Other Procedures

In severe cases, when simple therapies and lifestyle changes are not enough, surgical or other procedures might be considered:

Punctal plugs: Tiny silicone plugs can be inserted in the ducts in your lids to slow the drainage of tears away from your eyes, thereby keeping your eyes more moist.

Meibomian gland expression: A technique to clear out clogged oil glands.

Light therapy and eyelid massage: Procedures that help to control the inflammation around the edges of the eyelids.

Life After Having Dry Eye Syndrome

Living with dry eye syndrome requires ongoing attention to eye care and lifestyle adjustments to manage the condition effectively. Here are a few tips:

Regular eye check-ups: Monitoring the condition with regular visits to an eye care professional is crucial to manage and adapt treatment plans over time.

Being aware of the environment: Avoiding pollutants and irritants that can exacerbate the symptoms.

Managing screen time: Taking frequent breaks using the “20-20-20 rule” (every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds) can help manage dry eye symptoms caused by prolonged digital device use.

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Treat Your Dry Eye Syndrome with OCL Vision

Dry eye syndrome is a chronic and typically progressive condition, but it can usually be managed successfully with minor lifestyle changes and treatment. Understanding the underlying causes and the array of available treatments can significantly improve quality of life for those affected. At OCL Vision, our experts are dedicated to providing the best care and advice to manage dry eye syndrome, helping you maintain not only your vision but also your quality of life.

OCL Vision is England’s only surgeon-owned, comprehensive private eye care group. With OCL Vision surgeons operating in dedicated clinics in London and Elstree, Hertfordshire, patients can access world-class eye care closer to home with a specialist consultant who has dedicated their career to a specific branch of Ophthalmology.

With over 180 years of collective experience in eye surgery, OCL Vision is an elite group of eye surgeons who have performed over 70,000 surgical procedures, published more than 250 research papers, and presented their work nationally and internationally. Together, we provide patients with the highest standards of private eye care.

OCL Vision is conveniently located in and around London to support as many patients as possible with improving their vision.

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