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What You Need to Know About Dry Eyes

Dry eye is one of the most undertreated eye conditions in the United States.  In the healthy eye, tears are constantly being produced and then drain into your nose.  A healthy tear film is vital not only to the comfort of your eyes, but the quality of your vision.

FACT:  The most common cause of tearing is a dry eye.  It only makes sense if you understand how the eye works.  When you develop a poor tear film and your eye dries out, your eye sends a signal to the brain.  The brain responds by turning on your emergency gland – the lacrimal gland.  The lacrimal gland acts more like a bucket and when stimulated pours an excess of aqueous tears onto the eye.  This results in tearing.

FACT:  “My vision is fine when I start reading, but after a few minutes my vision gets worse.”  You most likely have dry eyes.  A lack of the oily protective layer will result in fast evaporation of your tear film resulting in an unstable tear film and quality of vision.  There are three layers that make up your tear film – an oily layer, an aqueous layer and a mucin layer.  A deficiency in any one of these layers will result in a dry eye.  Your treatment will be directed towards making all layers of your tear film healthy.  It is more important to have a well balanced tear film, than just an abundance of watery tears.

There are many ways to treat a dry eye, but the first step usually involves the usage of artificial tears.  Many types of artificial tears are sold over-the-counter:  Refresh, Genteal, Optive, Systane, Moisture Eyes, Tears Naturale.  Artificial tears can be safely used up to 4-6 times a day on a regular basis.  If artificial tears need to be used with more frequency, preservative-free artificial tears can be used every 30 minutes if necessary. Other treatment options for dry eye include prescription eye drops, prescription medications, punctal plugs and vitamins.  It is also very important to treat associated ocular (Blepharitis) and systemic (Rosacea) conditions in order to improve a patient’s quality of tear film.

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