Dry eye is a very common condition that occurs when people don’t have either enough tears, or the correct composition of tears, to lubricate the eyes and keep them comfortable.
If you have dry eye, your eyes may feel gritty, itchy, burning, and painful. These sensations often worsen as the day goes on. Stringy mucus may appear in or around the eyes. Patients with the most severe disease are at increased risk of developing corneal infection, scarring or ulceration. These conditions can cause permanent vision loss, although this is rare. Severe dry eye is sometimes caused by Sjögren’s syndrome, which is a chronic disorder that also results in dry mouth and is often associated with arthritis. More information about this disease is available at: www.sjogrens.org.
The first line of treatment is usually eye drops that act as artificial tears and give some temporary relief, but do little to arrest or reverse any damaging conditions. The preservatives in some eye drops can irritate the eye; preservative-free artificial tears may be required. For more severe cases of dry eye, topical steroids (in eye drops) are prescribed to combat inflammation. In other situations closing the drainage canals either temporarily or permanently, to keep the tear film on the surface for a longer time is beneficial. For some forms of dry eye, tiny plugs can keep tears on the eye’s surface by slowing the rate of drainage from the eye; this procedure is called punctal occlusion. Other forms of treatment such as Restasis which works by increasing the production of you eyes’ own tears.
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