Dry eyes occur when the eyes either don’t make enough tears, or the quality of the tears produced is reduced, which means the tears can evaporate rapidly from the surface of the eye, allowing the eye to dry. Often, the reduced tear quality is a result of blockage or inflammation of the oil glands within the lid margin.
When the surface of the eyes dries out, the eyes become inflamed. They appear red, and the whites of the eyes can appear to be pink and swollen. Normally, the eyes become very irritable. When seen on a microscope, using a fluorescent dye called fluorescein and a special cobalt blue light, the denuded surface areas can be seen as green specks on the surface of the eye.
How is Dry Eye Syndrome treated?
There is no absolute ‘cure’ for dry eye syndrome. However, most people can get significant relief from symptoms using a variety of treatments and measures.
Lid margin hygiene
If the underlying cause is blepharitis/lid margin disease, then treating this can often improve the ocular surface and reduce symptoms.
This can be done by simply applying a hot compress using hot tap water and a clean flannel to the eye each day, and then cleaning the lid margin with the water and flannel. Some people recommend using chemicals such as baby shampoo and sodium bicarbonate, but more often than not, these can cause ocular surface irritation, and so at least initially, are best avoided.
Regular lubrication in the form of gels or drops can help keep the surface of the eyes wet, and thus reduce symptoms. Often, this is combined with lid margin hygiene.
There is a wide range of eye drops available – consult our optometrist for advice on which one to use.
Tear duct surgery
When there is severe dry eye with a reduction in tear production, blocking the drainage of tears down the tear ducts can help keep the tears that are produced on the surface of the eye.
Temporary plugs are normally inserted first. In some cases, permanent closure with surgical cautery may be used.
Diet omega-3 oils and flax seed oil in the diet may help improve tear quality.