By Dr. Geet Shah, Ophthalmology
Tears keep eyes moist and serve as protective coating for eyes. Tears provide essential nutrients and wash away dust and other particles. Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca is commonly known as Dry Eye Syndrome. It is also known as Keratitis Sicca or Xerophthalmia.
It is the condition of having dry eyes accompanied with redness, burning, irritation, fatigue, pressure behind the eyes, sensitive eyes, and sometimes a blurry vision. Usually, it is progressive, chronic, and affects both the eyes. It is a common problem faced by a lot of people. The symptoms can be severe or mild. If the condition is left untreated, it may cause cornea scarring.
When symptoms are severe, it might interfere with quality of life making it difficult for some people to keep eyes open to work or drive. Early diagnosis and treatment eases discomfort and makes a big difference.
Causes of Dry Eye Syndrome:
Dry Eye Syndrome occurs when eyes do not produce sufficient tears, which renders them moisture less and itchy. It also happens when tears evaporate too quickly. It can be caused due to a number of reasons:
- Using contact lenses for very long and continuous hours.
- Dysfunction of the meibomian gland.
- LASIK (Laser Assisted in Situ Keratomileusis) surgery.
- Other refractive surgeries.
- Eye injury.
- Infrequent blinking.
- Thyroid diseases.
- Inflammatory eye conditions.
- Deficiency of Vitamin A.
- Use of medications like histamines, antidepressants, blood pressure medicine, etc.
- Exposure to tobacco smoke.
- Diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome, and collagen vascular diseases.
- Long duration of screen time.
Dry Eye Syndrome is easy to diagnose and can be correctly done just by looking at the symptoms only. However, tests like slit lamp examination is also used sometimes. Schirmer’s test is used to determine the severity of the condition. Qualitative and quantitative analysis of tears is also done.
Prevention and Management:
People can prevent this problem by following these instructions:
- Limiting the use of contact lenses.
- Avoiding corrective refractive surgeries.
- Avoiding environmental conditions.
- Limiting screen time.
- Humidification of indoor air.
- Refraining from antihistamines.
- Using lubricating and wetting ointments and drops.
The treatment option depends upon the severity of the condition. However, some of the common treatment for Dry Eye Syndrome are:
- Drugs can be prescribed to reduce eyelid inflammation. Antibiotics might also be prescribed.
- Eye drops containing corticosteroids can be used to control inflammation in cornea.
- Placing hydroxypropyl cellulose (Lacrisert) eye inserts which work like artificial tears to lubricate eyes.
- Cholinergics (pilocarpine, cevimeline) drugs stimulate tear production.
- Autologous blood serum drops, which are made from blood are very rarely used.
- Closing tear ducts reduce tear loss by plugging in tiny silicone plugs which are removable. It can also be done by a heat treatment called thermal cautery.
- Unblocking oil glands through gentle massage by thermal pulsation is also a treatment method.
- Using intense-pulsed light therapy and eyelid massage helps people with severe dry eyes.
This condition can also be treated by some of the alternative treatments:
- Food rich in omega-3 fatty acids help relieve Dry Eye Syndrome.
- Castor oil eye drops reduce tear evaporation.
- Acupuncture is seen to have improved Dry Eye Syndrome.
Dry Eye Syndrome is a condition which affects both eyes and is caused by poor tear production or quick tear evaporation. It can be caused by a number of factors but has an easy diagnosis. It should not be left untreated as vision can be impacted.