Dry eye syndrome, also known keratoconjunctivitis sicca (or simply “dry eye”) is one of the most common eye diseases today. Estimates vary greatly, but it is believed that between five and six percent of everyone in the world has this disease.
One of the difficulties in creating a more accurate estimate is that not many people are aware of this condition. Few seek treatment for dry eye; most believe their symptoms are just part of normal eye function. Many people spend their lives suffering from this condition without getting any proper relief.
The name of the disease itself is fairly descriptive: it is indeed caused by an inadequate lubrication of the external surface of the eye. This lack of lubrication causes dry eye’s characteristic dryness and irritation. This condition may be caused by low tear production or rapid evaporation of tears.
Dry eye is often chronic and recurring. Those who suffer from it can experience symptoms from mild irritation to severe pain.
What Causes Dry Eye?
There are many different causes of dry eye syndrome. One of the most common causes is age: tear production naturally decreases as people grow older.
Other causes of dry eye include eye injuries, autoimmune disorders, and even certain congenital problems. These causes can affect the glands responsible for tear production, which results in either a reduction in the quantity of tears or a lowered quality of tears (they evaporate faster). Aside from these main causes, however, a number of other diseases and conditions can affect tear production.
There are also a number of external causes that can result in dry eye. Medications such as diuretics, antidepressants, and sedatives can affect tear production. Environmental factors like humidity or wind can cause the eye to dry up. Some people even experience dry eye seasonally as a symptom of their allergies.
People who wear contact lenses are particularly susceptible to dry eye syndrome. Most people who wear contacts experience dry eye to some degree or another, especially if their contact lenses are worn for extended periods of time without the use of special eye drops.
Those who undergo ocular surgery such as Lasik also often experience dry eye syndrome. This is often temporary, and eye doctors usually prescribe eye drops to counteract this symptom immediately after surgery is performed. In some rare instances, however, accidental damage to the eye may make this condition more chronic.
Some cases of dry eye may even be the result of several causes working together. For example, someone wearing contact lenses may also suffer from allergies that cause dry eye. This can make diagnosis more difficult, especially given the large number of possible causes.
Correct diagnosis is important for the treatment of dry eye. Eye doctors can only offer the correct treatment for this disease if the correct root cause is identified.
How Do I Know If I Have Dry Eye?
Even though there are many different causes of dry eye, most people experience similar symptoms. Here are some of the most common:
• Those who suffer from dry eye syndrome often complain of mild to severe irritation. They may experience a stinging or burning sensation or feel as if a foreign object were stuck in their eye.
• The eye may have a stringy discharge, which can cake on the eyelashes. This is usually experienced first thing in the morning, but can also happen throughout the day.
• People with dry eye may also experience blurry vision, light sensitivity, frequent eye fatigue, and chronic eye pain.
• In rare cases, dry eye can result in a partial or even complete loss of vision.
If you experience any of these symptoms, especially if you experience them on a regular basis, you may have dry eye syndrome. Please get proper treatment as soon as possible so as to avoid permanent damage to your eyes.
What Treatments Are Available?
Dry eye syndrome is often a chronic disease, but it is easily manageable.
Mild to moderate cases can usually be treated with lubricants such as eye drops. In cases where dry eye is a result of external factors, avoiding these factors may be enough to reduce your symptoms. In addition, you eye doctor may prescribe dietary supplements or medications.
Other treatments are available for more severe cases of dry eye. Lacrimal or punctal plugs may be inserted into the inner corners of the eyelids. This prevents tears from draining into the nose and often reduces the symptoms of dry eye.
Another alternative is to perform punctal cautery, which permanently seals this drainage by cauterizing it with a special medical instrument.
Where Can I Get Treatment?
Atlantic Eye offers comprehensive eye exams that can accurately diagnose your dry eye symptoms and determine what the root cause of your dry eye may be. Your treatment at Atlantic Eye will be personally directed by one of the most experienced ophthalmologists in the Myrtle Beach area. You can be sure to receive personalized, professional eye care that you can trust.
If you live in the Myrtle Beach area and you think you have dry eye syndrome, you can find the right Myrtle Beach eye doctor at Atlantic Eye.