DRY EYE: CAUSES, TREATMENTS, PREVENTION

When the eyes are unable to maintain a quality tear film and enough we talk about dry eye syndrome. It is a very annoying situation since our eyes need a tear film in the  quality enough to keep them properly hydrated, eliminate particles that have been introduced inside and, even, to maintain good vision.

The dry eye syndrome is the first reason to consult with the ophthalmologist and, according to some studies, it affects between 15% and 30% of the population. Its prevalence increases with age and is a more frequent problem among menopausal women due to its relationship with hormonal changes.

In the most severe cases, scars can occur on the cornea (the front surface of the eye) and affect vision.
At this point, we can emphasize that the symptoms of dry eye syndrome are very varied and can have a wide progression. For this reason, we talk about different forms of ocular dryness:

Causes of Dry Eye Syndrome
The main reason for dry eye, which usually appears in elderly people, are hormonal changes, which cause the eyes to start producing less tears or the tear film is of inferior quality. With aging, the cells that generate the tears are constantly atrophied and those that determine the composition of the tear film, such as the Meibomian glands, which are responsible for producing certain lipids that prevent the evaporation of the tear.

Other causes of dry eye syndrome are:

To be in a dry environment or with excessive wind.
Abuse of air conditioning.
Excessive exposure to the sun
Be a smoker (active or passive).
It may also be due to the side effect of previous eye surgery.
Some systemic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus erythematosus.
Finally, the use of contact lenses can also be considered one of the causes of appearance of dry eye.
The fragment of woman’s face with open eyes macro

Treatment
The usual treatment for dry eye syndrome is artificial tears. These may or may not contain preservatives, being the first (with preservatives) the most convenient and effective, except in very sensitive or allergic people. Most people notice great relief during treatment with artificial tears using these drops 2 to 4 times a day. Other treatment options, especially for cases in which the symptoms and discomfort are milder, include wearing sunglasses (which relieve symptoms such as itching or redness) or changing certain habits, such as eating a proper diet, not expose yourself to very dry or highly conditioned environments and take certain measures of hygiene of the eyelids.

If the problem persists or worsens, other alternative treatments may be used as reinforcement or substitute for artificial tears:

Wear glasses that retain moisture in the eyes.

Take, under medical prescription, some types of medications, such as anti-inflammatories.
If the patient takes medication or uses certain eye drops for the allergy try to reduce them, since they tend to dry out the eyes more, worsening the symptoms of the dry eye.

You can also use tiny special plugs, which are placed in the lacrimal drainage ducts, to help the tear film remain on the surface of the eye for a longer time. This treatment through drains should also be used under medical prescription.

Surgery for the dry eye by occlusion of the lacrimal dots. It is used only in very serious situations.
In recent years, in addition, it has begun to use an alternative treatment that seems to be giving very good results, especially when there is severe dry eye. It is autologous serum, a method that is based on regenerative medicine by which the body’s own resources are used to repair damaged tissues.

Autologous serum is an eye drop that is made from the patient’s own blood. The blood contains a high concentration of a series of proteins that are called growth factors that contribute to the regeneration of the corneal surface, favor the viability of the cells of the corneal epithelium and the disinflammation of the most superficial layer of the eyes. The components, pH and concentration of this autologous serum are practically the same as those of tears.

How to prevent it?
The main prevention measure is to stay away from dry environments and the elements that irritate the eyes, mainly tobacco smoke and air conditioning. In winter, it is advisable to use a humidifier.

Habits such as blinking more often, resting the eye periodically or regularly cleaning the lashes with hot compresses have been shown to be effective in eliminating or alleviating the tear deficit in the eyes.

Some specialists maintain that the origin of the symptoms of dry eye is found in sleeping with the eyes slightly open. To solve this problem you can apply lubricant ointments before sleep, which are very effective. In any case, the use of these products should always be done in small quantities, as they can distort the vision.

Dry Eye Disease, also known as Dry Eye Syndrome or Lacrimal Dysfunction Syndrome, is a condition that involves tears and the surface of the eyes. Your eyes constantly produce tears that water their surface to keep it moist. People who suffer from dry eye do not produce enough tears or have tears that evaporate too quickly from the surface of the eyes to keep them moist. Some people have both problems. The eyes may look dry and irritated.

Dry eye syndrome is one of the most common conditions seen by optometrists. It affects up to 30% of people over 50 years old. This condition is unfortunately often underdiagnosed because many people think that it is normal, at a certain age, to have dry eyes and that nothing can be done to prevent or treat this disorder.

Do you still have artificial tears on hand?
If you often use over-the-counter drops, but still have troublesome symptoms that are characteristic of dry eyes, you may have dry eyes.

Causes
Dry eye may be the result of insufficient tear production or poor quality of the tears that causes them to evaporate from the surface of the eyes or a combination of both. If an element of the complex system that produces the tears does not work properly, it may cause dry eye. As your eyes dry up, inflammation can form on the surface of the eyes, which accentuates your symptoms.

You may be at risk for dry eye pain if you are a woman, if you are over 40, if you wear contact lenses, and you have had eye surgery (such as LASIK).

Dry eye can also be caused by various diseases or environmental factors and by taking certain medications.

Among the diseases that can cause dry eye, we find:

Sjögren’s syndrome;
Parkinson’s disease;
diabetes;

thyroid diseases.
Certain medications such as antidepressants, diuretics, beta-blockers, anti-histamines, hormone replacement therapy and retinoids may cause or exacerbate dry eye. In addition, dry air, smoke, wind and cold can cause dry eye. Long-term viewing of a computer screen or other electronic device is another predisposing factor to dry eye.

What you see as a simple temporary inconvenience could end up doing no harm to your daily life. Do not ignore alarm signals

Symptoms and Complications
The dry eye gives the impression of having a foreign body in the eye. The eyes sting, seem to contain dust; we want to rub them. Other common symptoms of this condition include ocular heating and redness. It is possible that one is irritated by the light (photophobia) and that the vision is blurred. People who suffer from dry eye can even experience tearing in response to eye discomfort. These extra tears do not help to moisten the eyes.

Dryness increases during the day. It may be intermittent in some people, while symptoms may still be present to some degree in others.

When not treated, dry eye can lead to complications that cause scarring of the eye surface, resulting in decreased vision.

Diagnostic
Your doctor / optometrist usually diagnoses dry eye based on your symptoms, an examination, and possibly some relatively simple tests. He could do an exam with a slit lamp to look at different parts of your eye. He may also ask you to answer a questionnaire about your symptoms. Some practitioners may perform other tests, such as the Schirmer test to measure your tear production or instilling drops in your eyes to examine the surface.

The intensity of the symptoms does not always correspond to the importance of the dryness of the eyes. Some people’s eyes are sometimes very dry without them feeling any symptoms, while others experience very boring symptoms while the tests indicate that their eyes are not dry.

Treatment and Prevention
Artificial tears and lubricants are the main treatment for dry eye. They help moisten the eyes and relieve the symptoms of this condition, but they do not cure it. Lubricants can also help prevent your tears from evaporating. Artificial tears and non-prescription lubricants are available at your local pharmacy. If you use artificial tears more than 4 times a day, you should ask your pharmacist or doctor to recommend tears without preservatives to reduce the risk of side effects that may occur with excessive use.

If artificial tears and lubricants are not enough to alleviate your symptoms or if your symptoms are severe, you may need eye drops containing an anti-inflammatory and cyclosporine. They can be used to help reduce inflammation and reduce the symptoms that accompany dry eyes. You must continue to use artificial tears or lubricants while using these eye drops. Treatment and management of dry eye are important to prevent complications and worsening of the disease that accompanies advancement in age.

To help relieve your eyes when they are too dry:

Be sure to blink regularly, especially when using a computer or other electronic device.
Use a humidifier in your bedroom, near your office and other places where you spend a lot of time.
Avoid sitting in a draft from air conditioners or heaters.
Wear sunglasses outdoors to protect your eyes from wind and dust.
Wear wet chamber glasses to keep moist air around your eyes.
Avoid cigarette smoke.
Take good care of your contact lenses or use daily contact lenses.

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