What is dry eye syndrome?
The dry eye syndrome is a medical condition where the eyes fail to lubricate properly, leading to a sandy discomfort. In more serious cases, dry eye syndrome leads to loss of visual acuity, among other visual problems. The National Eye Institute considers dry eye syndrome a common problem that affects millions of adults in the United States.
For the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), the problem with dry eyes is tears. Tears are critical in keeping the eyes wet. However, the tear glands may produce insufficient or poor quality tear films hence failing to keep the eye as smooth as required. A tear film of the right quality has three layers, a watery layer, an oily layer, and a mucus layer.
Each layer of the tear film plays a crucial role in maintaining the right smoothness of the eye. The oily layer, for example, keeps the surface of the eyes wet and smooth. On the other hand, the watery layer cleans the eyes and keeps foreign bodies like sand particles. Further, the mucus layer helps to spread the oily and watery layers of the tear film all across the eye’s surface.
What is the evidence of this condition?
Different people manifest dry eye syndrome differently. However, the AAO identifies certain things as symptomatic of dry eye syndrome. They include a stinging sensation in the eyes. Oftentimes, the stinging sensation grows into a strong irritation. It is because of this irritation that the eyes turn red. Due to the irritation in the eyes, victims may dab at the eyes without stopping. As a result, the eyes become teary and they may start to lose vision acuity.
Diagnosis of dry eye syndrome considers a number of things. The first priority goes to the medical and social history of the patient, according to the American Optometric Association (AOA). Specifically, this phase intends to note health problems that might inform the prognosis. Besides, ophthalmologists consider environmental factors and medications that might have a role in the development of the condition.
The second step in the diagnosis process is examination of the external eye. Ophthalmologists prioritize blink dynamics and the structure of the eyelid for clues. Furthermore, the specialist uses magnification and bright light to examine the eye in more detail, such as the cornea. The diagnosis process often ends with the specialist evaluating tears for abnormalities. If the specialist is certain, the patient suffers dry eye syndrome; the next step entails treatment.
How does dry eye syndrome come about?
The AOA recognizes five major factors as the reasons for dry eyes syndrome. Certainly, age is the most common factor. Because of aging, the quality and quantity of tears that an individual produces decline. The National Eye Institute identifies people aged 65 and above that are highly likely to suffer dry eyes syndrome.
Another factor that leads to the condition is gender. Biologically, women experience numerous instances of hormonal changes compared to men. Interestingly, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted that close to 67% of visual impairment takes place in women. The cause of this phenomenon is women living longer than men as well as hormonal imbalances.
Further, certain medications such as antidepressants and antihistamines affect production of tears. Other factors that cause dry eye syndrome are certain medical conditions such as diabetes, and environmental conditions such as elongated exposure to dust and smoke.
Treatment of dry eye syndrome
Since dry eyes syndrome is majorly a problem with tears, the treatment also focuses on improving their quality and quantity. A specialist may opt to add tears (eye drops) if the condition is a mild case. If the patient fails to respond positively to the artificial tears, then the specialist might prescribe medicines such as Xiidra or Restasis.
Sometimes, defeating dry eyes syndrome needs patients to change their lifestyle. Some points to consider include ensuring that one gets enough sleep, proper hydration of the body, reducing the time in front of screens, and avoiding dusty environments. However, in the rare case where the problem is acute, the specialist might opt for punctual plugs or even surgery.