Tears are produced by the lacrimal glands. They keep the eyes lubricated, thereby lowering the risk of infections. Dry eye syndrome is a medical condition in which the chemical composition of the tears may be abnormal, or the production of tears is less than normal. Under these circumstances, the affected individual is likely to experience a gritty sensation or a foreign body sensation in the eyes. Other symptoms that may be experienced include itchiness, eye fatigue, pain, redness, and increased sensitivity to light.
- This syndrome is primarily a result of the decreased production of tears or an imbalance in the composition of tears. The production could decrease as we age.
- Exposure to dry air or harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun could also be contributing factors.
- Medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren's syndrome, or problems associated with the tear ducts or eyelids could put a person at an increased risk of developing this problem.
- Overuse or improper use of contact lenses, prolonged use of medicines like antihistamines, and antidepressants can also be a trigger.
- Anti-inflammatory Drugs: Restasis is an anti-inflammatory drug that contains an immune-suppressing medicine called cyclosporine. It is often prescribed for people suffering from this eye ailment. However, results can only be seen on prolonged use. Recommended doses are 1 drop twice daily. It has been approved by the FDA. It increases tear production and prevents the tear film from drying up fast.
- Hypotonic Drugs: Thera tears, hypo tears, and akwa tears are some hypotonic drops that help to fight the dryness of the eyes. While hypo tears bring temporary relief from dryness and irritation, akwa tears lubricate the eyes and protect them from getting dry in the future.
- Bicarbonate Drops: Besides protecting the eyes from dryness and itching, bion tears provide relief from other eye diseases. Murine tears, which is another bicarbonate eye drop, contains 6 of the 11 major constituents of the natural tear.
- Lubricants with Gelling Agent: These are preservative-free eye drops that provide temporary relief from burning and irritation that is caused due to dry eyes.
- Oil-based Drops: These eye drops boost the lipid content of the tear film.
- Serum Eye Drops: Serum eye drops are useful in curing dryness of the eyes, as these contain growth factors that are naturally present in tears.
- Eye Lubricants: Artificial tear inserts that contain cellulose may be used. Cellulose thickens the tear film. These inserts have to be inserted like contact lenses once or twice in the eyes.
- Antibiotics: Antibiotics like tetracycline may be prescribed by the physician to treat dryness. Although these antibiotics work mainly to kill bacteria that may cause infection, they also restore the tear content of the eyes. Antibiotics are also available in the form of ointments that may be applied to the eyes every night before going to sleep.
Surgery: Puncta are openings on the inner corner of each eye. These are the beginning of the tear drainage system. These openings may be blocked surgically using punctal plugs, thereby preventing tears to drain out of the eyes, down the nose, and the throat. In certain conditions, individuals are unable to close their eyelids, and this might lead to dryness of the eyes. A part of the eyelids of such individuals may be stitched to help them close their eyes properly.
Moisture Chambers: These are plastic shields that may be used by those who sleep with their eyes slightly open at night. The moisture chambers decrease evaporation of tears, thereby preventing eyes from drying up. Some people use them even during the day.
Self Care: Using a humidifier at home or in the office increases the moisture content in the surroundings. This reduces the rate of evaporation of tears from the eyes. Take frequent breaks while watching television or working on computer. Washing one's eyes frequently with water will also help. It is important for those using contact lens to use lubricating eye drops. Since dry eyes can lead to increased sensitivity to light and wind, do wear protective eyeglasses while stepping out on a sunny or a windy day.
Eyes are very delicate organs, so do take good care of them. If you often experience a gritty sensation in the eyes along with pain or redness, do consult an ophthalmologist.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.