Dry eye is caused by a lack of proper lubrication on the surface of the eye. Nearly half of all adults have symptoms, and twice as many women are affected compared to men. Factors that increase risk for dry eye include: computer use, contact lens wear, aging, menopause, smoking, environment, health conditions, medications, and more.
Signs can include: burning, itching, aching, redness, a heavy or tired feeling, and even blurred vision. Many people also report the feeling that something is in the eye, and sometimes even watery eyes can actually be a sign of dryness.
There are many possible causes of dry eye syndrome, and to fully understand the process we need to know a little more about how the tears work. There are two important components to the tear film: the liquid layer and the oily layer. The liquid (or aqueous) layer is created by the lacrimal glands located behind the upper eyelids, and the oily (or lipid) layer is created by the meibomian glands which are inside the eyelid. Both parts of the tear film need to work together to keep the eye properly lubricated.
If either component of the tear film does not work properly, symptoms of dry eye will occur. For example, if the lacrimal glands do not produce enough of the liquid tears, the eye will not be fully moistened, leading to “aqueous deficient dry eye.” If the meibomian glands do not produce enough of the oily tears, they will evaporate off the eye too quickly, leading to “evaporative dry eye.”
eye doctor will be able to determine if you have aqueous deficient or
evaporative dry eye, or a combination of the two. Once the cause has
been identified, a treatment plan can be created to properly manage the
disease. For most people dry eye is not completely curable, but the
symptoms can often be managed very successfully resulting in improved
comfort and vision. Frequently, the earlier we catch any condition, the
easier it is to treat. If you have not had an eye exam recently, now is a
great time to come in for an evaluation.