Dry eyes are very common particularly as we get older, especially in the over 40 age group and can tend to affect women more than men. Depending on the severity, it can greatly impact on quality of life.
Several factors can contribute to dry eye, including the quantity and quality of your tear film. Factors such as air conditioning, computer use, windy conditions, low humidity, medications, and previous laser corrective surgery can also cause dry eye.
Certain general health conditions such as arthritis, thyroid problems, Sjogrens syndrome can also cause dry eyes.
There can be a wide range of symptoms and can include:
- Dry, gritty, itchy, sore, red, watery eyes.
- Burning and stinging, tired eyes and also blurry vision are common.
Dry eye is a complex condition caused by a problem with your tear layer. This layer is important as it keeps the front surface of your eye lubricated and healthy, and it helps the eyes to focus clearly. The tear film is basically made up of three layers which are an oily or lipid layer, a watery layer and a mucin layer- although in recently it is now referred to it as 2 layers – a lipid layer and muco-aqueous layer. All these layers are produced by different glands in and around the eye and as we blink the lids distribute the tear film over the surface of the eye. If the balance of these layers is incorrect, this leads to the tear film becoming unstable and can result in a low quantity of tears, or poor quality tears, or it can be a combination of the two. The effects are the same, as this causes the tear film to evaporate, and leads to the tear film becoming too salty, which we refer to as hyperosmolarity. Once this happens, this starts a process of damage to the surface of the eye and also can cause inflammation.
Dry eye is often linked to conditions such as Blepharitis /Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD) which often results in a reduction of the lipid layer which causes the tear layer to evaporate. The Meibomian glands open out on to the upper and lower lid margins and these often become plugged and blocked. See our information on Blepharitis.
If you have symptoms of dry eye, we can do a full assessment of your tear film to determine the cause of your problems.