What is dry eye syndrome?
Dry eye syndrome, also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca, is a condition in which a person does not have enough quality tears to lubricate and nourish the eye. Tears provide lubrication, reduce the risk of eye infection, wash away foreign matter from the eye, and keep the surface of the eyes smooth and clear. Dry eye is a common and often chronic problem, particularly in older adults. However, in the modern age of computers and smartphones, the incidence of dry eye is increasing.
Dry eye symptoms
People with dry eyes may experience the following symptoms:
- Irritated, gritty, scratchy or burning eyes
- A feeling of something in their eyes
- Excess watering or tearing
- “Tired” eyes
- Blurred vision
Dry eyes can be diagnosed through a comprehensive eye examination, with emphasis on the evaluation of the quantity and quality of tears produced by the eyes. Patient history is reviewed to determine the patient’s symptoms, to note any general health problems, and to discuss any medications or environmental factors that may be contributing to the dry eye problem. With the information obtained, Dr. Shuster can determine if you have dry eyes and advise you on treatment options.
Dry eye treatment
Treatment of dry eye syndrome is based on its severity. Adding artificial tears is the first step. Mild cases of dry eyes can often be managed using over-the-counter artificial tear solutions. These can be used as often as needed to supplement natural tear production. Preservative-free artificial tear solutions are recommended because they contain fewer additives, which can further irritate the eyes. People with dry eyes that don’t respond to artificial tears alone will need to take additional steps to treat their dry eyes. Conserving natural tears and keeping tears on the eyes longer can reduce the symptoms of dry eyes. This can be done by blocking the tear ducts through which the tears normally drain away from the eye via punctal occlusion with punctal plugs. Here the tear ducts can be blocked with tiny silicone or gel-like plugs. If needed, Dr. Shuster can also prescribe eye drops that increase tear production, such as Restasis or more recently available Xiidra. If the source involves contributing eyelid or ocular surface inflammation and/or infection, Dr. Shuster might recommend prescription eye drops or ointments, warm compresses and lid massage, or eyelid cleaners to help decrease lid margin and ocular surface inflammation.