Dry eye syndrome: One third of patients visit the ophthalmologist for this condition

What is dry eye syndrome?

It is the situation produced on the surface of the eye due to an alteration in tear production, either because the quantity of tears produced decreases or because the quality is not adequate.

One of the functions of tears is to adequately lubricate the eyelids and the eye. If tears do not work properly, more or less intense ocular discomfort is produced and in more severe cases, ocular lesions may occur.

Dry eye syndrome is a very frequent cause of consultation. It is estimated that 30% of patients who visit an ophthalmologist’s office do so for this reason, and the frequency increases with the age of the patients. However, despite the common nature of the disease, cases are frequently misdiagnosed and poorly treated.

Causes of dry eye

  • Age: With age, less tears are produced due to atrophy of the glands.
  • Hormonal changes: mainly in women, during menopause.
  • Autoimmune diseases: the most frequent being lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Medications: some of common use, such as some drugs for anxiety, depression, hypertension, allergy.
  • Previous surgeries affecting the ocular surface.
  • Exposure to irritating or dry environments.
  • Excessive use of computer terminals or situations that force you to keep your eyes fixed for a long time.
  • Chronic inflammation of the eyes and eyelids.

Can it be prevented?

Obviously, the best prevention consists of avoiding the causes that produce dry eyes, although this is not always possible. As a general rule, a proper diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids is recommended.

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Treatment of dry eye

The basis of the treatment consists of a proper diagnosis that is made in the consultation of a specialist in Ophthalmology. Once this is done, it is necessary to comment that there is no curative treatment, the objective is to alleviate the symptoms, which can be very annoying and disabling for a normal life.

It is essential to maintain a good doctor-patient relationship for a good understanding of the disease and its evolution. The pillars of treatment are:

  • The improvement of environmental conditions.
  • Controlling the cause of dry eye.
  • The application of eye drops.

The use of artificial tears is mandatory. There are many types and the treatment can be personalized. In addition, corticosteroid eye drops, biological eye drops -such as autologous serum or serum rich in growth factors (PRGF)-, immunomodulators such as cyclosporine or lifitegrast -the latter is not yet available in Europe- can also be used. In some cases it is necessary to perform eyelid surgery or to use tear duct plugs or permanent occlusion of the tear duct.

Is it a serious disease?

In the vast majority of cases, dry eye syndrome is not a serious disease, although the symptoms may be so severe that they prevent the patient from leading a normal life.

In some cases, unfortunately, dry eye can lead to serious ocular complications. Yet another reason for proper management of this disease.