Dry Eye (also known as Dry Eye Syndrome or Dry Eye Disease) is a common condition affecting people of all ages. It occurs when there is insufficient volume and/or quality of tears to keep the surface of the eye sufficiently lubricated. This can result in eye discomfort.
The surface of the eye is covered by a thin layer of tears, called the Tear Film. Your Tear Film has several important functions; it washes, protects, nourishes and lubricates the eye.
A healthy Tear Film is maintained by blinking. Blinking replenishes the tears and oils necessary for healthy vision.
Tears are produced by several systems, and if any part of these systems break down, it can result in a reduced quality or quantity of tears. If this occurs, it can result in Dry Eye Disease.
Dry Eye can have a significant impact on your quality of life, affecting daily activities such as driving or reading.
Symptoms and causes
If you have Dry Eye, it is usual to notice some or all of the following symptoms:
- Your eyes feel irritated and dry
- You may experience blurred vision or fluctuations in your vision
- You may experience contact lens discomfort
- You may feel that there is something in you eye
- You may feel burning and itching in your eyes
- Your eyes may start to water or run (this may seem strange as you have "dry eye", but watery eyes are actually a common symptom of Dry Eye)
Dry Eye can be caused by many factors including:
- Aging and hormonal changes
- Environmental conditions such as air conditioning in cars, offices and airplanes
- Poor diet and dehydration
- Increased tablet, phone or PC use, leading to reduced blinking
- Contact lens wear
- Certain eye surgeries
- Certain medical conditions such as Diabetes and Sjogren's Syndrome
- Use of anti-histamines and some other medications
Advice & treatment
Dry Eye is chronic and progressive, meaning your symptoms will reoccur and worsen if not treated. For this reason, it is important for Dye Eye to be diagnosed and managed correctly.
A key element in the treatment of Dry Eye, Blepharitis and Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD) is patient compliance (patient correctly following health advice). The use of preservative free products can aid this as it reduces patient discomfort, a large contributing factor in non-compliance.
Applying a heated eye mask or warm cloth* to closed eyelids for 10 minutes, can help soften the clogged oils in the eyelid glands. This allows the oils to flow more freely and helps prevent the tears from evaporating from the surface of the eye.
Following the heated eye mask, gently massage the eyelids using your forefinger. Massaging will help push the oil out from the eyelid glands.
*A warm cloth may not retain the warmth as long as a commercially available heat mask specifically for the eye.
Cleansing your eyelids daily will help remove debris, bacteria and oil that can often lead to Blepharitis, MGD or Dry Eye symptoms. While lid scrubs using diluted baby shampoo applied by a swab or cotton bud have been the most widely recommended method, there are newer, more effective methods of managing lid hygiene such as commercially available lid scrubs, wipes and foams. Lid scrubs and wipes are usually pre-soaked in a cleansing solution and ready to use.
Using preservative free methods where possible is recommended, as the long-term use of preservatives can be harmful to the ocular surface.
Eye Care Professionals recommend the use of preservative free eye lubricants and sprays which have shown to be more effective than preserved eye drops or ointments in reducing inflammation on the eyes.
Tear replacement with eye drops, sprays or ointments are traditionally considered a mainstay of Dye Eye management, however it is recommended these are used in conjunction with other therapies to target the underlying causes of Dry Eye.
Eye Care Professionals recommend a diet rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids and/or the use of nutritional supplements to help manage DED.
Increasing your consumption of Omega-3 Fatty Acids can improve the oil in your glands and relieve symptoms associated with Dry Eye, Blepharitis and MGD.
It is important to choose an Omega-3 supplement that is highly absorbable by the body to ensure best results. A healthcare professional can suggest a suitable supplement for you.
Useful tips on eye lubricants...
- Eye Care Professionals recommend using preservative free eye lubricants, particularly if using contact lenses or undergoing glaucoma treatment.*
- One opened, many eye drops and gels should be thrown away after 28 days. Some newer eye drops can be kept for up to six months from first opening - please check when your eye drops should be discarded.
- Most eye drops will have a patient information leaflet inside the box. There is usually a lot of information in here including details on how to use the product.
- Don't share your eye drops with anyone else.
*Daniel Nelson, J et al, TFOS DEWS II : New Dry Eye Report Updates Research. The Ocular Surface. 2017
- Dry Eye is often associated with Blepharitis. Eyelid hygiene will help to relieve this condition.
- Making changes to the environment in which you live can have a positive impact on your Dry Eye, such as avoiding prolonged periods in front of the computer or by wearing sunglasses on bright and windy days.
- Some medications can cause Dry Eye as a side effect. While you should never stop taking your medication without speaking to your healthcare professional, you should advise them if you are experiencing and such side effects.
- For best management of Dry Eye, it is recommended to follow a complete daily eye care regime.