Dry Eye: Causes and Treatment

Dry eye (SOS) is an eye disorder that occurs when our eyes are unable to lubricate properly, producing insufficient or poor quality tears and can be enhanced due to current lifestyles, especially with the use of digital devices, screens, air-conditioned environments and the use of contact lenses.

What are the symptoms of dry eye?

  • Feeling of heaviness and grittiness in the eyes
  • Need to keep the eyes closed
  • Stinging
  • Redness

Many people associate “dry eye” with a lack of tears, but the truth is that in many cases this is not the case. In fact, a common symptom of the eye disorder is constant tearing.

There are several treatments that can alleviate its symptoms, if carried out effectively, following the ophthalmologist’s indications.

What are the causes of dry eye?

Environmental conditions may condition tear evaporation. For example, heat, wind, air conditioning or tobacco smoke make evaporation occur much faster.

Alteration in blinking: In situations of maximum concentration (reading or in front of screens, for example) it is possible that blinking frequency decreases. In addition, there are people who leave their eyes slightly ajar when sleeping, which may contribute to increase the degree of ocular dryness, causing discomfort upon waking up.

Alteration in the tear components:

  • The aqueous component of tears responsible for hydration of the ocular surface deteriorates over the years.
  • Alterations in the lipid component: this is the most common cause in young patients and is closely related to blepharitis: this pathology is associated with inflammation and redness of the edge of the eyelids, sometimes with scales, which produces an alteration in the composition of the tear that favors its evaporation.

Insufficient tear production, in cases of herpes in the eyes or due to the use of contact lenses.

Treatment for dry eye

Artificial tears are over-the-counter eye drops, available in a variety of ingredients and viscosities. Low viscosity tears are light and watery, provide quick relief and cause almost no blurring of vision when applied. Instead, they should be used more frequently for effective symptom relief.

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Those with a high viscosity are more gel-like and provide long-lasting lubrication. However, in many cases these drops cause some blurring of vision for several minutes after application.

Some cases require treatment with topical medications (eye drops) with anti-inflammatory (corticosteroids) or immunomodulatory (restasis) action.

Lacrimal plugs, a small sterile device that is inserted into one of the small openings of the lacrimal drainage system. In this way tears can no longer drain out of the eye and the tear film remains intact on the surface of the eye for a longer period of time.

The use of warm compresses and heat massage may be appropriate in the treatment of meibomian gland dysfunction (blepharitis) in situations of alteration of the lipid layer of the tear film.

A thorough and personalized ophthalmologic examination of each case is very important to determine the causes and establish the best possible treatment for each patient.

Dry eye prevention

  • Blink more frequently: especially when using screens or digital devices.
  • Wrap-around style sunglasses and glasses with side shields to keep moisture out and protect eyes from dust or wind.
  • Take frequent breaks when using the computer. There is a rule based on looking away from the screen at least every 20 minutes and looking at something more than 2 meters away for at least 20 seconds.
  • Remove eye make-up completely.
  • Clean the eyelids. When washing your face before bedtime, also gently wash your eyelids to remove bacteria that cause blepharitis and problems with the meibomian glands that lead to symptoms of dry eye syndrome.