Dry Eye Symptoms And How To Treat Them
Keratoconjunctivitis sicca, also known as dry eye syndrome or dry eyes, is a condition in which the tear film covering the ocular surface is disturbed. It is caused by excessive evaporation of tears, decreased production of tears, and/or abnormalities in the production of the mucus and lipids that cover the tear layer. In most cases, there are no long term side effects or vision loss from dry eye syndrome but in severe cases, increased risk of infection as well as thinning, scarring, and perforation of the cornea can occur. Symptoms can be mild or severe and include the following:
- Sensation of the eyes being gritty or filmy
- Sensation of foreign bodies in the eye
- Sensitivity to light
- Blurred vision
- Intermittent, excessive tearing
Treatment of dry eye syndrome depends upon the severity of the condition. For mild cases of dry eye syndrome, self-treatment strategies can be employed.
- Humidifier: A more humid environment slows the evaporation of tears. This can be particularly helpful when the heat is on in the winter or the air conditioner is on in the summer.
- Air filter: Large amounts of dust or other particles in the air exacerbate the symptoms of dry eye syndrome.
- Hot compress and eye lid massage: Heat stimulates the oil glands and massage helps increase the flow of oils, leading to better lubrication of the ocular surface.
- Lubricating drops or ointments: Because ointment blurs vision, ointments are typically used before overnight sleep.
- Fish oil: Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce symptoms of dry eye syndrome.
In severe cases of dry eye syndrome, medical intervention may be required.
- Prescription lubrication drops. Drops may be administered in the form of a tear insert. Inserts are similar to contact lenses. They are placed on the eye several times a day and are effective in stabilizing and thickening tears.
- Corticosteroid drops and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drops. These medications have been found to reduce inflammation and therefore relieve some symptoms associated with dry eye syndrome.
- Antibiotics. Antibiotics reduce the number of bacteria that break down tears and help oil flow more freely from glands.
- Surgery. When patients have difficultly closing their eyes or if drainage from tear ducts is obstructed, minor surgery may be performed.