Dry eye is often chronic condition affecting about 1/3 of Australian adult population in which half is over the age of 50. It is more prevalent on females. In normal eyes tear film covers the outside surface to keep it moist. Natural tear film constitutes of 3 unique layers with different equally important functions..
- Mucin layer: This is the most inner layer of the tear film which is almost like sea weed that helps the tear film spread all around the ocular surface
- Aqueous layer: This is the middle and the thickest layer of the tear film. This is the water in our eyes produced by the lacrimal gland
- Oil layer: This is the outer most layer of the tear film which help in preventing evaporation of the water in the eyes.
Quite simply dry eye results when there is not enough tears being secreted by the lacrimal gland and/or if the tears evaporate too quickly.
Causes of dry eye can be environmental, age related, ocular allergy, lifestyle related, medications and disease related. Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) is a leading cause where the glands don’t secrete oil due to blockage and/or deficiency. Depending on the severity dry eye symptoms can include intermittent to severe visual disturbances, irritation, foreign body sensation, redness, sleep disturbances, stye formation, eye burning, eye watering, light sensitivity and depression.
Dry eye cannot be completely cured but proper treatment can control symptoms effectively. Early diagnosis and treatment is key in preventing disease progression. Our optometrist specialises in understanding and diagnosing the cause of the condition which ultimately is the key to formulating a customised treatment plan for best outcomes.
There are many treatments that is proven to show success in combating dry eye
Artificial tear supplements:
This is very commonly used in aqueous dry eye treatment where lack of tears is being supplemented by frequent addition of artificial tears. However it is very important to follow prescribing doctor’s instructions in using tear supplements as different supplements will yield different outcomes.
We do not blink enough and/or effectively when using digital screens like smart phones and tablets. Far too often this can lead to dry eye and poor visual outcomes. We need to blink more in order for lacriminal gland to get a stimulus to produce more tears. Our optometrists have also prescribed blue light filters in prescription glasses that gives relief of eye fatigue on digital screens.
This is when a warm moisturised cloth is placed on top of eye for few minutes: This will open up the Meibomian gland pores on the lids and softens the oil for easy expression. Our optometrists can teach you to do this at home while there is a commercially available steaming devises available at our clinic for more effective treatment. Couple of minutes of using these steaming devices can elevate symptoms effectively.
Eye lid hygiene
Blepharitis is a condition of eyelid margin inflammation due to Meibomian gland blockage. This can lead to mild to severe irritation of eyes. Optometrists can manually express blocked glands to elevate symptoms or there is Blephex which is a revolutionary treatment for blepharitis at our clinic. Blephex devices scales and cleans your eyelids for effective long term relief of blepharitis.
Studies have shown Omega 3 fatty acid rich oral supplements are able to naturally boost tear production. We have Lacritec which is available at our clinic that have proven to show consistently sustainable results in boosting natural tear production in eyes.
The role of wraparound sunglasses is often under rated in dry eye control. But often a good pair of polarised sun glasses can protect our eyes against sun’s harmful UV rays while reducing tear film evaporation from the eye surface. We have access to high quality sunglasses at the practice.
Our optometrists can also artificially block punctums which are channels in our eyes that drain tears. In aqueous deficiency dry eyes when punctums are effectively blocked by optometrists, then the volume of naturally occurring tears are able to be retained at the surface of the eyes for a longer duration. Punctal plugs can also reduce the frequency of use of artificial tear drops.
Optometrists are also able to prescribe specific ocular medications which are able to control ocular inflammation that can result due to prolonged severe dry eye.
Intense pulsed light (IPL)
This is a mode of treatment with very promising results in reducing eyelid inflammation due to MGD dysfunction. As little as 3-4 pulses over a period of 12 months have shown to boost Meibomian gland function.
The above is just a short summary of dry eye and some of the effective treatments available. Talk to our optometrists about your specific dry eye.