Dry Eye is the term used to describe eyes that do not produce enough tears or eyes that produce tears of the wrong chemical composition.
The natural tears that your eyes produce are composed of three layers:
- the outer oily layer
- the middle watery layer
- the inner mucous layer
Dry Eye is most often a result of the eyes’ natural aging process. Most people’s eyes tend to become drier as they age; however, the degree of dryness varies and some people have more problems than others.
In addition to age, dry eye can result from:
- problems with normal blinking
- certain medications such as antihistamines, oral contraceptives, and antidepressants
- environmental factors such as a dry climate and exposure to wind, air-conditioning, and heat
- general health problems such as arthritis or Sjögren’s syndrome
- chemical or thermal burns to the eye
- previous eye surgery
Dry Eye symptoms are often different in different people; however, the following are commonly experienced by those whose tear production is inadequate:
- irritated, scratchy, dry, or uncomfortable eyes
- excessive watering as the eyes try to comfort an overly dry eye (reflex tears)
- redness of the eyes
- a burning sensation of the eyes
- the feeling of a foreign body in the eye
- blurred vision
- eyes that seem to have lost their normal clear glassy luster
If untreated, Dry Eye can be more than just irritating or uncomfortable. Excessive dry eye can damage eye tissue and possibly scar the cornea, the transparent front covering of the eye, impairing vision. Contact lens wear may be more difficult due to the possibility of increased irritation and a greater chance of eye infection.
Avoid over-the-counter “EYE WHITENERS” such as VISINE, CLEAR EYES, ALBALON, ALLEREST, ALLERGY DROPS, DEGEST 2, COLLYRIUM FRESH, COMFORT EYE DROPS, EYE GENE, ESTIVIN, ISOPTOFRIN, MURINE PLUS, PREFRIN, NAPHCON, OCU-CLEAR, RELIEF, 20/20 EYE DROPS, VASOCLEAR, VASOCON, AND ZINCFRIN.
These drops contain naphazoline, phenylephrine, tetrahydrozoline, or oxymetazoline and are not specifically for dry eyes. If you use these drops too often, they will lose their effectiveness and keep your eyes looking red. These drops are fine for occasional use to decrease redness.
Artificial Tears-Lubricating Eye Drops
Artificial tears are available with or without preservatives. If the drops burn or sting when you put them in your eyes, you are either not using them often enough or your eyes may be sensitive to the drops. Try some others. Some people need to use these drops as often as every 30 minutes to keep their eyes comfortable. Also, use the drops often enough to prevent your eyes from feeling dry, rather than waiting until they become irritated. We recommend that you use the newer artificial tears with oil.
The most popular eye drops are:
- Artificial Tears With Oil
- Systane Balance
- Refresh Optive Advance
- Retaine MGD Preservative-Free
- Soothe XP
With Less-Irritating Preservatives
(Regular teardrop bottle, slightly more expensive, good for frequent regular use up to 4-8 times daily)
- GenTeal Moderate
- Refresh LiquiGel
- Tears Naturale Forte
(Small dropperettes, may be difficult to handle, more expensive, and good for frequent use in patients with very sensitive eyes)
- Refresh Plus
- Hypo Tears PF
- Bion Tears
- Tears Naturale Free
- Tears Again
- Systane Free
- TheraTears Liquigel
- Refresh Optic Advance
Longer-Acting Artificial Tears
(Very thick drops, may make your vision slightly blurry for a while after use)
- Aqua Site
- Tears Again Gel
- Liquifilm Forte
- GenTeal Gel (thickest available)
(Regular teardrop bottle, least expensive, good for use up to 3-4 times daily)
- Tears Naturale
- Hypo Tears
- Aqua Tears
- Clerz 2
- Moisture Drops
Vitamin + Omega 3 Fatty Acid Capsules
- HydroEye Capsules
- Fish Oil
- Flaxseed Oil
If your eyes bother you during the night or when you first awaken in the morning, you may want to use an eye ointment in your eyes at bedtime.
Three similar eye ointments that are available without preservatives are:
- Refresh PM
- Systane Nighttime Ointment
- Hypo Tears Ointment
If you are experiencing the symptoms of dry eye, your Eye Doctor can perform “dry eye” tests using diagnostic instruments to give a highly magnified view and special dyes to evaluate the quality, amount, and distribution of tears. Your Eye Doctor will also need to know about your everyday activities, your general health, medications you are taking, and environmental factors that may
be causing your symptoms. Unfortunately, dry eye cannot be cured, but your eyes’ sensitivity can be lessened and treatments prescribed so that your eyes remain healthy and your vision is not affected.
Possible treatments include:
- frequent blinking to spread tears over the eye, especially when using a steady focus for an extended period of time, e.g., reading, driving, T.V.
- changing environmental factors such as avoiding wind and dust and increasing the level of humidity
- using artificial tear solutions
- using moisturizing ointments, especially at bedtime
Other Forms of Treatment
insertion of small plugs in the corner of the eyes (punctum) to retain tearson your eye. In rare cases, surgery may be recommended. Whatever treatment is prescribed for you, it is very important that you follow your Eye Doctor’s instructions carefully. Dry Eye does not go away. However, by working together, you and your Doctor can keep your eyes healthy and protect your good vision.
If you are in the Winter Haven, Sebring, Haines City, Lakeland, Clermont, Auburndale, or Lake Wales areas and suffer from dry eyes, please contact Eye Specialists of Mid-Florida, P.A. to schedule an appointment.