Dry Eye – The Rising Concern

The eye is your window to the world and is responsible for supplying you with the majority of information around you. So what happens when that window becomes compromised and using it causes discomfort and there is a risk of it becoming unusable? Dry eye by definition is a multifactorial disease of the tears and ocular surface. It is more common in women, contact lens wearers, those with glaucoma and persons living a modern lifestyle and use digital devices. During the day a person may experience burning, watering eyes, a foreign body sensation, red eyes and have fluctuating vision.Tears are made up of three main components and when the balance is off this spells disaster. The tears help oxygen to reach the cornea, defend the eye against bacteria and lubricate the eye surface. Our eye lid margins are lined with biofilm that is populated with bacteria. These bacteria can produce toxins that lead to inflammation along the eye lid margin. Over decades this inflammation affects the ocular surface and leads to long-term changes with the eyelash follicles being the first to be affected and later the eyelid glands become blocked and malfunction.  In most cases of dry eye it is the lipid layer that is in short supply due to this meibomian gland disorder (MGD). MGD cannot be cured, it is managed like gum disease, with persons being made to feel more comfortable. Left untreated for a long time there is risk of dry spots becoming scars leading to blindness.Treatment ranges depending on the severity of the condition and are aimed at enhancing the system Mother Nature has made. Lid hygiene has been used for years, but it requires good patient compliance in order to be even a little bit effective. Antibiotics can only temporarily reduce inflammation. Some clinicians are using a special eye lid exfoliation procedure that effectively cleans the lid which gives a better chance at treating dry eye. Other options include artificial tears and eye gels, light therapy, therapeutic expression of the glands and punctal plugs. At home supportive therapy can be warm compresses, lid scrubs topical medication for inflammation as well as sleep goggles. Proper blinking is critical to maintaining the health of the meibomian glands and ocular surface. Dry eye symptoms are progressive in nature so the sooner treatment is started the better the long-term outcome.