Dry eye syndrome, or simply dry eyes is a health issue characterized by inability to maintain a healthy layer of tears on the surface of the eye. Tears are produced inside the lacrimal glands and they are of major importance for lubrication and preservation of moisture of the eyes. Tears are rich in different substances. They mostly contain water, but there are also oils, mucus, antibodies and specific proteins. If the eyes are moisturized enough, there are no health issues such as blurred vision.
Dry eye syndrome basically affects otherwise healthy people and tends to be more frequent with older age. Still, there may be underlying eye diseases or even some systemic illnesses which are responsible for dry eyes.
Dry Eyes and Associated Problems
If there is not sufficient production of tears or they are produced in sufficient amounts but are simply not distributed over the eyes after a while a person may starts dealing with several health problems. First of all, there is pain. Pain in not so severe initially, and intensifies gradually. In the majority of cases in the beginning there is a gritty sensation which slowly progresses into an actual pain. The eyes become too sensitive to light. People also report that they feel as if there is a foreign body in their eye. Itching, redness and blurred vision are three more characteristic of dry eye syndrome.
It may be inconceivable that people who have tears running down their cheeks complain about dry eyes. In such case there is probably a structural abnormality which does not allow tears to be properly distributed across the eyes. This is the reason why the affected eye actually stays dry in spite of sufficient amount of tears.
Dry Eyes Causes
The first thing which leads to dry eyes is insufficient production of tears. This occurs in older people (as a part of the aging process), due to some environmental factors (dry air, heat etc.), some eye conditions or some systemic illnesses (rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren's syndrome). Inadequate tear production may also occur after some eye surgeries or due to damage to the lacrimal glands.
Even if tears are produced in desirable amounts, they may leak down the cheeks and never end in the eye. This is usually a complications of Bell's palsy, some eye injuries or may develop as a side effect of certain surgical procedures.
Dry Eyes Treatment
Lack of tears can be substituted with artificial tears and ointments. At night these are applied in abundant quantities and the eye is then covered with a bandage which keeps the ointment/artificial tears on the surface of the eye. Restasis is a prescription eye drop which is generally administered in patients suffering from chronic dry eyes.
In order to preserve tears on the surface of the eyes doctors can perform two procedures. They are known under the names temporary and permanent punctual occlusion. And finally, sometimes corrective surgeries may improve the function of the eyelids, allowing them to close better and keep the tears on the surface of the eyes.