Dry eye syndrome

Understanding dry eye syndrome

Dry eye syndrome occurs when the body fails to produce adequate lubrication or moisture for the surface of your eyes. Symptoms of dry eyes include:

  • Itchy eyes,
  • Soreness in the eyes,
  • Increased sensitivity to light,
  • Burning sensation in the eyes,
  • Blurred vision.

Should you be experiencing any of the symptoms of dry eyes on a regular basis, please contact us to book an appointment with one of our specialist eye consultants (ophthalmologist), who will be happy to examine your eyes to determine what is causing the problem and the best way to treat it.

What is dry eye syndrome?

In order to work properly, your eyes need a constant source of moisture and lubrication, and these are usually provided by tears. Your body is constantly producing specialised tears to keep the eye clean and healthy. These are known as ‘basal tears’, and they help to protect your eye from dirt and irritants.

Basal tears are created in your lacrimal glands, which are located just above each eye. Every time you blink, these tears are spread evenly across the surface of your eye by the eyelid. This ensures your eye is kept lubricated and moisturised.

Should there be a problem in the lacrimal ducts or in the production or composition of basal tears, your eyes can experience a marked lack of lubrication and moisture; this is referred to as ‘dry eye syndrome’.

The medical terms for dry eye syndrome is ‘keratoconjunctivitis sicca’.

Your tears are made up of a number of different parts, including fatty oils, water and mucus. When everything is working correctly, the composition of a tear is optimally balanced to provide adequate lubrication, moisture and protection to the eye.

A problem in any of the different parts of tears can cause dry eyes. 

There are a number of factors that may cause you to experience dry eyes:

  • Age; you are more at risk of developing dry eye as you age,
  • Medications, such as certain antidepressants or antihistamines,
  • Hormonal changes (women going through pregnancy or the menopause are more likely to experience dry eyes),
  • Disease or injury that affects your lacrimal glands,
  • Staring at a computer screen for long periods of time,
  • Wearing contact lenses for long periods of time.

Over time, dry eye syndrome may:

  • increase your risk of developing an eye infection,
  • lead to damage to the cornea (the outer layer of the surface of your eye),
  • affect your ability to perform everyday tasks, such as reading a book.

It is important to consultant an eye doctor if you are experiencing dry eye syndrome, as they can help treat the cause and promote better eye health.

Before treating dry eyes, your eye consultant will carry out tests on your eyes to determine the exact cause. Usually, a detailed eye examination will help to highlight the cause of your dry eyes. In some cases, further tests may be needed, and these will be fully explained to you by your consultants if they are required.

Once the cause of your dry eyes has been confirmed, your consultant will discuss with you the best way to restore your regular eye health. The most common treatment for dry eye syndrome is to use eye drops. An over-the-counter (OTC) eyedrop can often help to relieve the symptoms of dry eyes. Depending on the extent of your dry eyes, you consultant may prescribe you specialised eyedrops if warranted.

You may be prescribed medication to increases the rate of tear production. If your dry eyes are being caused by a medication you are currently on, your doctor could advise you to change that medication to a different one, to assess whether that improves the symptoms you are experiencing.

If contact lenses are causing irritation and dryness in your eye, you may want to try wearing glasses for a while instead to see if that helps to improve your symptoms.

The exact treatment for your dry eyes will depend upon the cause, symptoms and severity, and your consultant will give you help and advice specific to your needs. 

We know that dry eye syndrome can be uncomfortable and frustrating. Should you be experiencing any of the symptoms of dry eyes, such as burning, itching or discomfort in the eye, contact us today to book an appointment with one of our eye consultants.  

The consultant-led ophthalmology team at St Joseph’s Hospital is at the forefront of ophthalmic care in the UK, and we have world leading technology to help with your diagnosis and treatment for dry eye syndrome.

Our consultants can provide you with a thorough eye examination to determine the cause of your dry eyes, and then help you choose the best treatment to relieve your symptoms.

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