Wiping away tears over a sad movie or a good laugh is important for your heart, but let’s not forget that tears play an important role in the health of your eyes. A healthy adult is constantly producing tears. These tears help wash away irritations, provide lubrication and help keep the surface of the eye nice and smooth. However, most healthy adults do not have a steady flow of tears running down their cheeks, so where do they all go?
Each time you blink, your eyelids coat your eyes with tears. At the same time, your eyelids are acting as pumps to remove the previous tears. In the corner of your eyes, closest to your nose, there are drainage openings called “puncta.” Puncta allow the tears flow out of your eyes and into your nasal passage (not down your cheeks.)
Dry eye syndrome is the eye’s inability to either produce enough tears, or an overall lack of “quality” tears.
What Causes Dry Eye Syndrome?
Sometimes, the eyes just don’t produce enough tears. Other times, the tears being produced are not “good quality.” There are three main components that make up your “tear film.” When one of these components is not there or insufficient, dry eye symptoms will appear. This is commonly referred to as “evaporative dry eye.”
There are a few reasons why you could develop dry eye syndrome. The most common is growing older. By the age of 65, most people will be experiencing some symptoms of dry eye. As we grow older, decreased hormone production can lead to a dysfunction in tear production. A common risk factor is gender. Because of the hormonal changes that occur in women during pregnancy or menopause, they are at a higher risk of developing dry eye.
Other causes can be certain lifestyle choices, such as smoking, or environmental issues such as being in a dry and windy climate. Even staring too long at a computer screen can cause dry eye syndrome.
Autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes, are also known to cause dry eye syndrome. Blood pressure medication, decongestants and antidepressants can also result in dry eye syndrome.
Diagnosing Dry Eye Syndrome
Diagnosing dry eye syndrome is not as easy as simply realizing you have dry eyes. There could be contributing factors that need to be examined by your doctor. In addition to the factors mentioned above (environment, age, etc.) your dry eye doctor is going to want to examine your eyes, your eye lids and the surrounding area to determine what is causing your symptoms.
There are multiple tests available to diagnose dry eye syndrome. Your dry eye doctor may perform multiple tests, as different types of dry eye require different methods of diagnosis.
Treating Dry Eye Syndrome
Treatment for dry eye syndrome is dependent on the cause. In most instances of mild dry eye, adding additional tears via an over-the-counter eye drop is the best remedy.
In situations where the eye is producing plenty of tears but the drainage is too quick, small silicone or gel plugs can temporally be used to slow the loss. In the more extreme cases of this problem, there are surgical procedures that can permanently close the ducts.
Lastly, if the cause is an infection or inflammation, there are prescription eye drops, medication and treatments that your doctor can recommend to resolve the issue. Chronic dry eye syndrome due to hormone imbalance may require multiple avenues of treatment, and more long-term strategies such as diet and lifestyle change.
If you are dealing with dry eye syndrome and would like to discuss your treatment options, be sure to contact Eye Surgeons and Consultants of Hollywood, Florida today! Our dry eye specialists boast years of experience and are happy to help you get rid of your frustrating dry eye symptoms. Call (954)894-1500 to set up your appointment today.