Dry eye is a disease characterized by insufficient tear production, poor tear quality or poor distribution on the ocular surface. It can be caused by several factors.
Thirty percent of the consultations made by patients who come to an ophthalmologic appointment are related to dry eye, which is why specialists in Ophthalmology recommend good hydration, since tears nourish the cornea and protect it from bacterial substances.
It is estimated that between 10 and 20% of the population suffers from dry eye, especially women after the age of 40, due to the hormonal alterations caused by menopause.
How can we recognize the symptoms of dry eye?
One of the most recognizable symptoms of dry eye is excessive tearing, this is due to a low tear production, the cornea dries out and causes a foreign body sensation, ocular irritation; that is, the eye is not sufficiently lubricated and becomes irritated, causing the lacrimal gland to release a large amount of tears, saturating the tear drainage system.
Other recognizable symptoms are the sensation of being gritty, stinging, burning, photophobia and even blurred vision, due to direct corneal involvement (keratitis), among other symptoms.
Why can dry eye syndrome appear?
The risk increases fundamentally in:
- Menopause and in women taking oral contraceptives.
- Aging as a natural factor: The increase in life expectancy in the population will cause more and more people to suffer from this condition.
- Contact lens wearers.
- Patients suffering from blepharitis.
- Patients being treated with antidepressant drugs, thyroid or chemotherapy.
- Patients with chronic topical ophthalmologic medication.
- Use of eye drops such as vasoconstrictors (eye drops used to whiten the eye) or anti-allergic eye drops that can worsen dry eye, since they decrease tear production.
- Frequent use of electronic screens (computer, mobile phone, tablet, television, video console) also favor the appearance of dry eye syndrome.
In addition, there are external elements that can aggravate the problem, such as poorly prescribed glasses, working with inadequate lighting, air conditioning (both hot and cold), environments loaded with smoke, very small computer screens, etc.
The most severe cases of this pathology are due to chemical accidents, certain surgeries and rheumatic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. In these types of diseases, the autoimmune process destroys the lacrimal glands and this reduces tear production.
Treatment of Dry Eye
The most common treatment for this disorder is the use of artificial tears. In almost all cases, dry eye is solved with artificial tears in drops without preservatives, although in some cases (10%) pharmacological treatments (corticosteroids, cyclosporine, autologous serum) or surgical techniques aimed at closing the tear ducts (punctal plugs) are necessary to prevent tears from escaping through the nose.
Cleaning of the palpebral margin is frequently necessary. In this area are the glands that provide the essential fat for the tear to properly lubricate the eye. These glands often become clogged, and heat and cleaning sometimes restore the secretion.
What daily precautions can be taken?
- Work with good lighting and adequate screen resolution.
- Make sure your glasses are properly prescribed.
- Keep a distance of 50 to 60 cm from the monitor and keep it at eye level or slightly below, since small changes in eyelid opening mean large changes in tear evaporation.
- Improve environmental measures (smoke, heating, air conditioning).
- If we work with screens or work with continuous visual fixation, take breaks of 4-5 minutes every hour or alternate with tasks that do not require screens.
- Intentionally blink several times and look into the distance for a few seconds to relax the muscles that allow us to accommodate for near vision.
- In contact lens wearers, lubricate continuously with artificial tears.
Can nutrition help prevent dry eye?
Nutrition also has an effect on the composition of tears, since it conditions the quality of the greasy film that covers them so that they can fulfill their lubricating function, avoiding evaporation. Some tips we can follow are:
- Drink plenty of water to keep all tissues properly hydrated.
- Supplement the diet with foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, such as walnuts, almonds, cucumber, spinach, lettuce, soybeans, Brussels sprouts, cod liver oil, oily fish -sardine, anchovy, salmon, cod, herring-, strawberries, pineapples; and rich in vitamin A, such as eggs, calf liver, chicken, turkey or fish, milk, cheese, carrots, broccoli, sweet potato, kale, spinach, pumpkin, melon, mango, papaya…
Foods rich in Omega 3 are essential fatty acids, so called because our body cannot produce them, therefore they must be ingested as part of our diet.