Why do we have tears?
Tears are necessary to keep the eyes healthy and comfortable, and to provide clear vision. Tears are made of a combination of oil, water and mucin. The oil is made in the meibomian glands and prevents the tears from drying too fast. The water is made by the lacrimal glands in the eyelids. It cleans the eye and washes out debris. The mucin is made in the conjunctiva – the clear covering over the whites of the eye. The mucin allows for the smooth spread of tears over the eye surface to keep it moist. When something affects one or more of the components, it can result in dry eye.
What is dry eye?
Dry eye is a common and chronic condition caused by an insufficient quantity or quality of the tears, or both, necessary to lubricate and protect the eye. Dry eye affects both sexes. If you have severe dry eye, it can damage your cornea and affect your vision.
What are the symptoms of dry eye?
A scratchy feeling like there is something in your eye is a common complaint. Other symptoms are a stinging or burning sensation, red eyes, sensitivity to light and blurry vision.
What causes dry eye?
- You don’t make enough tears. This is common in women age 50 and older who have undergone menopause.
- Your tears dry up too fast. Suggests blockage of the meibomian glands.
- Certain autoimmune diseases such as Sjogren’s syndrome, thyroid disease and lupus
- Wearing contacts
- Reading and or any activity that reduces blinking, such as looking at a computer screen for long periods
- Not getting enough Vitamin A and Omega 3 fatty acids in your diet
- Smoky, windy and dry environments, including exposure to air conditioners, heaters, and fans
- LASIK or other refractive vision correction corneal surgery to correct vision
- Medications used to treat heart disease, high blood pressure, colds and allergies, depression and heartburn
How is dry eye diagnosed?
Your Union Square Eye doctor will conduct a comprehensive dilated eye exam and look at the surface of your eyes, your eyelids and check your blinking. Make certain you tell your doctor about all the medications you are taking as some of them may be causing or contributing to your condition. Dry eye can affect your vision causing clarity to come and go. They may conduct tests to evaluate the quality of your tears, and your ability to make tears.
Treatments for dry eye
When you have dry eye your Union Square doctor will advise you to use over-the-counter lubricating eye drops that are formulated to simulate your own tears (artificial tears). For more significant dry eye your eye doctor will prescribe special medications to treat the condition.
Lifestyle changes include dietary changes and avoidance of smoky, windy and dry conditions. Increasing water intake or using a humidifier during dry seasons can also improve dryness.
For irritated eyes prescription eye drops or ointments may be advised. Home care to unblock the oil glands includes the use of warm compresses, eyelid massage and eyelid washing. Eyelid washing is the use of diluted baby shampoo or topical cleanser as advised by your doctor applied to the eyelids and eyelashes and gently cleaning followed by rinsing. There are also lid scrub products available over the counter in the pharmacy.
In Manhattan, the Union Square Eye Care team provides treatments and procedures for all your eye care needs. Contact us to schedule a consultation to receive diagnosis and treatment. Our patients always receive the most patient-focused, personalized and compassionate care from dedicated, board-certified ophthalmologists and optometrists.