If your eyes look and feel as if they've been rubbed with sandpaper, you may be one of the countless individuals dealing with a common eye issue known as dry eye. This chronic problem, in which your tear mechanisms fail to protect and nourish your eye adequately, can cause everything from pain and redness to serious vision problems. Our trusted Williamsburg eye doctors can help diagnose and treat your chronic dry eye. That's why you should make a beeline to Eye Center of Virginia for the soothing, healing dry eye care you need.
Do You Have Dry Eye?
Dry eye is the state that occurs when you produce insufficient or inadequate tears to keep your eyes healthy and comfortable. Every time you blink, your tear glands produce a mix of substances that create a tear film over the surface of the eye. This tear film must contain the right balance of water (to hydrate the eyes), mucin (to distribute the water and nourish the cornea) and oil (to keep the water from evaporating). Without this delicate balance, you may suffer from dry eye if you produce an abundance of tears.
Dry eye is characterized by symptoms such as itching, irritation or "foreign body sensation" in the eye, as well as eye redness and blurry vision. Age-related reduction in tear production is a common cause of dry eye. You can also get dry eye from constant exposure to wind, underlying medical challenges (and sometimes the medications used to treat them), and long hours of computer monitor usage (which makes you blink less often than you should).
Dry Eye is Common
Up to 5% of Americans complain of some form of dry eye. Individuals who wear contact lenses or have undergone LASIK or other types of refractive surgery commonly complain of dry eye. The condition is more common in women and is more common and severe in older persons. In extreme cases of the condition, chronic dry eye can result in increased eye infections and scarring of the cornea.
Causes of Dry Eye
Many diseases, disorders of the eye and side effects of medication can cause dry eye. Essentially, dry eye results under conditions in which too few tears are produced or evaporation of tears takes place too quickly. Quality tears are not simply salt water, but are made of three different substances -- mucin, water and oil -- designed to work together in proper proportions. The mucous layer lies just above the eye surface and helps the tear "water" spread evenly across the entire eye surface quickly and with each blink of the eyelid. The oil portion floats above the tear layer and not only helps lubricate blinking, but also actively slows down the rate of evaporation of tears from the eyes. Any interruption in these layers or their proportions can result in dry eye.
Treatment for Dry Eye
Your eye care provider will discuss treatment options with you that depend upon how seriously the problem is affecting your life and if complications are likely to occur. Treatment may consist of adding tears with over-the-counter "tear drops," prescription medication to take by mouth that will increase your tear production and even introducing omega-3 fatty acid nutritional supplements into your diet. Sometimes, surgery can help. One type of surgery -- a temporary or a permanent form -- plugs up the tear ducts so that tears cannot drain back into the body.
Ask your doctor how you can best begin treating your dry eye condition.