Some people do not produce enough tears to keep the eye healthy and comfortable. This is known as dry eye.
Tears are produced by two different methods. One method produces tears at a slow, steady rate and is responsible for normal eye lubrication. The other method produces large quantities of tears in response to eye irritation or emotions.
Tears that lubricate are constantly produced by a healthy eye. Excessive tears occur when the eye is irritated by a foreign body, dryness and when a person cries.What are the symptoms of dry eye?
The usual symptoms include:
- Stinging or burning eyes
- Stringy mucus in or around the eyes
- Excessive eye irritation from smoke or wind
- Excess tearing
- Difficulty wearing contact lenses
Excess tearing from “dry eye” sounds illogical, but if the tears responsible for maintenance lubrication do not keep the eye wet enough, the eye becomes irritated. When the eye is irritated, the lacrimal gland produces a large volume of tears that overwhelm the tear drainage system. These excess tears then overflow from your eye.Who is affected?
According to the National Women’s Health Resource Center, the condition affects an estimated 5 to 30 percent of the population age 50 and older in the United States. In addition, tens of millions of Americans experience less severe symptoms of dry eye.
Dry eye occurs most often in older women. Information gathered from the Women’s Health Study, a large cohort study in which 25,665 postmenopausal women provided information about the use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT), suggests that those who use HRT, particularly estrogen alone, are at increased risk of dry eye syndrome. A relatively uncommon, but often more serious, form of the disorder is associated with rheumatoid arthritis or dry mouth and is called Sjögren’s syndrome.
Other conditions, such as Graves thyroid disease can also be associated with dry eye and corneal irritation.Allergies can also contribute to eye dryness, causing additional eye discomfort, itchiness, redness, swelling and watery eyes. Antihistamine medications, taken both orally and in eye drops, can exacerbate dry eye symptoms, especially at the height of allergy season.How do we test for dry eye syndrome?
Testing for dry eye includes examination of the cornea at the slit lamp, and a special in-office “wick” test which measures the amount of tear production.What are the treatment options?
If the tear production is found to be deficient, treatment options include artificial tears, prescription eye drops such as Restasis® that increase tear production so the eyes are better moisturized and less painful, a temporary trial of collagen plugs or silicone plugs may be inserted in the corners of the eyes to limit tear drainage, or more permanent surgical closure of the tear duct openings (punctum). In closing, patients are advised to see an ophthalmologist for a proper evaluation of dry eye symptoms. For more information, contact any of the Eye Care Physicians & Surgeons of New Jersey offices or visit www.eyecareofnewjersey.com. Angela Veloudios, MD, FACS is a Fellow of the prestigious American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, one of a select group of surgeons nationally who has received certification for this subspecialty of ophthalmology. She is also a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, a prestigious scientific organization that recognizes academic and clinical excellence. She is currently an Attending Surgeon at Wills Eye Surgery Center, Cooper University Hospital, Virtua Memorial Hospital and The Surgical Center of South Jersey.
As seen in Burlington County Woman and Camden County Woman