Dry Eyes

What is Dry Eyes Syndrome?

Dry eyes is one of the most common problems treated by eye surgeons and is usually caused by a reduced quantity or increased loss of tears. Furthermore the tear film is also of poorer quality and fails to lubricate the eyes effectively resulting in eye symptoms.

What are the causes for dry eyes?

The ageing process is the most common cause. Other causes include:

  • Environmental factors – low humidity (air-conditioned rooms, aircraft cabin), hot, dry or windy climate
  • Visual tasks – working long hours on computer
  • Contact lens usage
  • Hormonal changes – menopausal women
  • Medications – cough and cold medications
  • Systemic illness – e.g. rheumatoid arthritis

What symptoms will I experience if I have dry eyes?

Your symptoms include:

  • Irritation or foreign-body sensation
  • Burning sensation
  • Itchy eyes
  • Redness
  • Blurred vision that improves with blinking
  • Excessive tearing (reflex tearing due to eye discomfort)
  • Increased discomfort after periods of reading, watching TV, or working on the computer
  • Contact lens intolerance

What are the treatment options for dry eyes?

The aim of treatment is to relieve any discomfort and to protect the ocular surface from any permanent damage. The choice of treatment will depend on the severity of the symptoms and presence of structural damage to the ocular surface e.g. cornea and conjunctiva. The various treatment options are:

  • Artificial tears

This is the mainstay of treatment. These can be preserved or preservative-free and come as eye drops, viscous eye gel and eye ointment. Frequency of use is guided by patient’s symptoms.

  • Environmental modification

This involves reducing the amount of time spent in front of the TV, computer screen or handheld devices. Avoiding air-conditioned room also helps.

  • Anti-inflammatory medications

Prolonged dry eyes can cause ocular surface inflammation which further reduces tear production. Mild topical steroid eye drops can help to break this vicious cycle. Immuno-modulating agents such as topical cyclosporine have shown beneficial effects by increasing tear production, resulting in a reduction of the usage of artificial tears.

  • Dietary modifications

Many studies have shown the beneficial effect of omega-3 fatty acids and flaxseed oil in increasing tear production in patients with dry eyes.

  • Punctal plugs

Punctal plugs, which are temporary or permanent plugs inserted in the lacrimal (tear) ducts can reduce the drainage of tears from the eye. It can preserve both natural tears as well as artificial tears.