At one time or another, most people experience dry eyes due to windy weather, low humidity, or allergies. But for some, dry eyes are more than an annoyance. Sometimes, severe or chronic dry eyes can become a health risk.
Dry eye syndrome develops when specific changes in your body cause tears to evaporate too quickly or inadequate tear production. In both situations, you will have insufficient tears to lubricate your eyes. It will also make your tears saltier, increasing inflammation and other symptoms of dry eye disease.
Chronic dry eye is an inflammation of the ocular surface and tear disorder. It usually causes symptoms of eye dryness, redness, and overall discomfort. It encompasses various disorders and may cause an eye's gritty, burning, or stinging sensation. It can also cause episodes of blurred vision.
The exact cause of this eye disorder is unknown. But according to eye care professionals, certain external factors may worsen the symptoms of dry eye disease. These include workplace conditions such as exposure to air conditioning, prolonged computer use, dust, allergens, and heating.
The most common way to treat dry eyes is through over-the-counter artificial tears. Eye doctors usually recommend using these eye drops as often as necessary to relieve symptoms. However, this applies to eye drops that do not contain preservatives. You should not use them more than four times daily if they contain preservatives.
If you find that artificial tears are inadequate for treating your chronic dry eyes, your eye doctor will recommend alternative treatments. These include the following:
PROKERA® Amniotic Membranes: If you have moderate to severe dry eyes, you may benefit from this treatment. It involves using a small ring to hold donated amniotic tissue in place over the cornea for several days. The tissue helps promote corneal healing. Even if you have severely dry eyes, this treatment can keep your eyes comfortable for several months.
Punctal Plugs: This treatment approach for dry eyes involves plugging the tear duct openings with tiny punctal/silicone plugs. Closure of the tiny openings in the inner corners of the lower and upper eyelids helps conserve tears.
Scleral Lenses: Many optometrists recommend scleral lenses for treating dry eye syndrome. Unlike regular contact lenses, scleral lenses cover the entire corneal surface and rest on the white part of the eye. They provide relief from the symptoms of dry eye by moisturizing the eyes. They also protect the eyes from irritants such as dust, wind, smoke, and other debris.
Medications such as RESTASIS® and Xiidra®: Your doctor may recommend any of these prescription eye drops to treat your chronic dry eye disease. However, Xiidra tends to work faster than RESTASIS. You should avoid using them together unless your eye doctor recommends this treatment.
SynergEyes VS™ lenses: These scleral lenses help correct the vision of people suffering from many corneal conditions. They achieve this thanks to the innovative designs that are a result of new research into the eye's shape.
Zenlens® scleral lenses: These are useful for patients with unique corneal conditions. These lenses align with the visual axis, leading to much clearer vision.
In the most severe cases, eye doctors may recommend surgical closure of the puncta.
Chronic dry eye affects five to 30 percent of people aged 50 and above in the United States. Also, tens of millions of people in the U.S. experience less severe symptoms of this eye disorder. That said, it is one of the most common reasons people, especially the elderly, visit eye doctors.
For more on chronic dry eyes, visit Green Eye Care at our office in East Harlem, New York. You can call (332) 334-8700 to book an appointment today.