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Dry eyes

Symptoms of dry eyes

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  • Itch
  • Feeling of grit or sand in eyes
  • Increasing awareness of eyelid movement
  • Red eyes
  • Burning sensation
  • Mucous discharge
  • Transient blurring of vision relieved by blinking

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Causes

The tear layer on the cornea surface is a very delicately balanced environment. The stability of the tear layer, the cornea surface, eyelids and blinking are important for maintaining the health of the exposed surface of the eye. Therefore, any dysfunction and disruption of any of these elements can lead to instability of the tear layer on the surface of the eye and to dry eye symptoms.

Other specific causes of dry eye include:

  1. Environment
  2. Dust, haze, and smoke often irritate our eyes. Another common cause of dry eye is the low humidity in air-conditioned places.
  3. Age
    As we grow older, tear quality and tear flow rate decreases. Dry eye is also common in postmenopausal female.
  4. Contact lenses
    Contact lens wear associated with poor blinking mechanism or poor tear quality will result in dry eye symptoms. Poor surface quality of contact lenses is a common cause of dry eyes. Contact lenses with high water content increases oxygen intake to the eye, but tend to be drier at the end of the day also.
  5. Visual tasks
    Prolonged staring at computer terminals and television screens decreases the frequency of blinking and thus set the stage for dry eyes.
  6. Others
    Certain systemic medications such as anticholinergics, duretics, antihistamines and decongestants can cause decreased aqueous tear secretion. Diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and Sjogren’s syndrome can also cause dry eye. Dry eye is also common in women during pregnancy.

Treatments

  1. Artificial tear drops
    Artificial tear drops help to restore the volume of the precorneal tear film. This can be purchased at most Optical / Optometric practices.
  2. Ophthalmic ointments
    Ointments are common for bedtime usage as they have prolonged retention time to keep the eye moist throughout the night and cause temporary blurring of vision.
  3. Education of treatment
    Treatment for dry eyes must be continuous and prolonged. The dry eye patient should be encouraged to use the drops frequently (2-3 hours/daily) at first and subsequently to reduce the frequency until the control of the symptom can be maintained.

    When dry eye symptoms become so severe that frequent instillation of artificial tears do not provide adequate relief, occlusion of the lacrimal puncta (where tears drain out from the eye) or eyelid surgery may be necessary.