As a dry eye patient myself I empathize with my fellow dry eye sufferers. For many of us, dry eye is a chronic condition that waxes and wanes for myriads of reasons. Dry eye sounds innocuous but anyone who has experienced it knows it can severely affect the ability to see both clearly and comfortably. Dry eye is a condition in which a person does not have enough “quality” tears to lubricate and nourish the eye. I give the example of driving with a dirty windshield – in order to see clearly to drive you need the wipers and the washer fluid in tandem to make the window clear and allow you to see well. So too if the tears and the eyelids are not working well together the vision will be impaired – like driving with a filthy windshield.
One reason for having dry eye is inadequate production of tears. This can be caused by age, gender (females), medications (such as antihistamines) and certain medical conditions. A dry and windy climate will also contribute to dry eye. Winter in New Jersey is tough on dry eye – the low humidity combined with artificial heating systems, especially the forced air types, wreak havoc on an already dry eye. Another reason for dry eye can be poor quality tears. I will address this more in length in another blog.
So how do we treat dry eye once it is diagnosed? Treatments are tailored specifically for each patient depending on the underlying cause for the dry eye. Ocular lubricants (fancy term for eye drops) are the mainstay of treatment and there are both over the counter and prescription options. If blepharitis (inflamed and irritated eyelids) is the culprit then lid hygiene is initiated as well.
In future blogs we will talk about more specific dry eye situations such as dry eye in contact lens wearers, dry eye in patients with underlying autoimmune diseases, and even dry eye in children.