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Dry Eye Syndrome: Understanding Your Tears

woman with dry eye squintingDry eye syndrome is a chronic condition that results from having insufficient tears or tears that evaporate too quickly due to a lack of oil in the tears. Its symptoms can range from mild to serious, and left untreated, severe cases of DES can cause scarring on the eye’s surface and even vision loss.

Most cases of dry eye syndrome result from problems with the tiny glands in the eyelids that produce the vital oils for the tears, but certain medications and medical conditions as well as environmental factors like dry wind, poor air quality, and indoor heating and air conditioning can also cause or contribute to DES.

Common Symptoms of Dry Eyes

  • Chronic eye dryness
  • Itchy eyes
  • Burning eyes
  • Eye redness
  • Blurred vision
  • Increased tearing
  • Light sensitivity

Why You Need Healthy Tears

Having healthy tears is crucial to maintaining your eye health, comfort and vision.

Tears perform many roles, from keeping your eyes hydrated to washing away debris and microorganisms that can cause an eye infection.

There are 3 vital components to a normal tear film: oil, water and mucus.

Each of these components of the tear film is essential because they form 3 separate and essential layers in the tears.

The oil in tears forms the outermost layer and increases ocular lubrication. This allows the eyelids to slide over the eyes and helps prevent the tear film from evaporating too quickly. Mucus, the innermost layer, helps anchor the tears to the front of the eye and spread the tears across the surface of the eye. The watery middle layer provides the bulk of the tear film and helps the eye stay moist while ridding the eye of irritants like dust and pollen.

Various glands produce the different tear components near or on the eye.

  1. Meibomian glands, located in the eyelids, produce the oily component
  2. Lacrimal glands, located under the brow bones, produce the watery component
  3. Goblet cells in the conjunctiva secrete mucus

Any imbalance of these 3 vital tear film components can result in dry eye syndrome.

How is Dry Eye Syndrome Treated?

The only way to treat DES, and not just temporarily alleviate its symptoms, is to undergo a dry [eye exam] by an optometrist who treats dry eye syndrome. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, treatment can commence accordingly.

Your eye doctor will prescribe over-the-counter or prescription eye drops and may recommend in-office treatments that help unblock any blocked glands or prevent tears from draining from the eyes.

Measures to Prevent or Minimize Dry Eyes

Optometrists may recommend that, in combination with treatment, their dry eye patients:

  • Wear wrap-around glasses or sunglasses when outdoors
  • Take regular breaks if working on digital screens
  • Blink more often
  • Avoid smoking and places where there is smoke
  • Use a humidifier to make the air less dry
  • Include foods rich in omega 3-fatty acids in their diet

Dry eye syndrome can worsen with time, often resulting in long-term complications, so it’s important to diagnose and treat it early. Book an appointment with your eye doctor at Della Porta EyeCare LLC today.


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