Dry eye syndrome is a prevalent issue affecting most of the community. It is so common that people tend to brush it off, not knowing whether it’s a symptom of a more serious underlying condition.
Nowadays, we spend a lot of time looking at screens of computers, smartphones, and tablets. When we stare at screens, we tend not to blink as much as we normally would. When we don’t blink enough, our tears evaporate more quickly, which makes our eyes dry and can cause discomfort — this can lead to a problem called dry eye syndrome.
This blog serves as your comprehensive guide for understanding and managing dry eye disease. But as always, consult with an eye care specialist to ensure the most effective course of treatment tailored to your specific condition. Whether you’re new to dry eye or a long-time sufferer, our aim is to help you better understand this condition and discover effective ways to alleviate symptoms and enhance your quality of life, so read on!
Book a consultation with Dr Jimmy Lim today to learn more about Dry Eye Syndrome.
Dry eye syndrome often manifests as a symptom of other ocular conditions, such as Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD) and Blepharitis.
In a nutshell, dry eyes is a condition characterised by inadequate tear production or an unstable tear composition leading to increased tear evaporation. In other words, the eyes don’t produce enough tears, or the tears that they do make don’t have the right balance of water, oils, and mucus to lubricate the eye adequately. Both situations result in the same outcome: a drier ocular surface that can cause discomfort and, over time, potentially harm vision. The most common symptoms are stinging, burning or scratchy eye sensations. In more severe cases, dry eyes can blur vision and cause inflammation.
Tears have a complex composition that is essential for the health of our eyes. They are made up of three layers: an oily lipid layer, a watery aqueous layer, and a mucus layer. The lipid layer, produced by the Meibomian glands in the eyelids, helps prevent the evaporation of the aqueous layer. The aqueous layer, produced by the lacrimal glands located beneath the brow bone, provides nourishment and protects the cornea. The mucus layer, produced by goblet cells in the conjunctiva, helps spread the tear evenly across the eye’s surface. An imbalance or disruption in any of these components can result in dry eyes
In MGD, the blockage or abnormalities of the meibomian glands result in insufficient lipid secretion to tears. This deficiency leads to a higher evaporation rate, causing the familiar dry eye symptoms. On the other hand, Blepharitis presents as inflammation of the eyelid margin. Patients with this condition typically experience burning or stinging eyes, irritated eyes, itchy eyelids and a gritty or foreign body sensation.
Addressing these conditions through targeted treatment can substantially alleviate dry eye symptoms. For example, patients with MGD or Blepharitis are encouraged to apply a warm compress on their eyelids daily, to promote the normalisation of lipid secretion. They are also advised to use eyelid wipes, some with tea tree oil, to enhance their lid hygiene. Lubricating eye drops or ointments may be prescribed to relieve dryness symptoms. In severe conditions, systemic anti-inflammatory medication or supplements may be given.
Read: Learn more about Dry Eye Diseases
Dry Eyes Medication
When it comes to treating dry eye syndrome, there are a lot of choices available out there. You can find some treatments at your local drugstore, while others might need a doctor’s prescription. Either way, there’s something to help everyone find relief from dry eyes. These are some of them:
- ARTIFICIAL TEARS AND OINTMENTS: Over-the-counter artificial tears or ointments provide sufficient relief from dryness for many people. They supplement your natural tear production, offering a moistening effect that can soothe mild dry eye conditions.
- ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DRUGS: Doctors may prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs such as Cyclosporine for more chronic or severe conditions. These medications work by reducing inflammation on the eye’s surface, increasing tear production, and restoring the eye’s natural moisture balance.
- STEROID EYE DROPS: Short-term use of steroid eye drops is another option to reduce inflammation, especially during flare-ups quickly. However, due to potential side effects with long-term use, these are usually prescribed as a temporary solution or in conjunction with other treatments.
- TEAR FILM STIMULANTS: The thin layer of fluid that covers the eye’s surface is called the tear film, which provides lubrication, nourishment, and protection. When this film is compromised, it can lead to dry, irritated eyes. Tear film stimulants help to stimulate receptors on the eye’s surface, enhancing the production and stability of the tear film, thus alleviating the symptoms of dry eyes.
Remember, while these options can help manage dry eye symptoms, it’s important to consult with your eye doctor to determine the most suitable treatment for your specific condition.
Read: 5 Signs That You Should See A Doctor For Your Dry Eyes
Procedures to Treat Dry Eyes
Various procedures can help manage and treat dry eyes, particularly for more severe or stubborn cases.
One such procedure, often performed when MGD progresses to a stye or chalazion, is Incision and Curettage (I+C). It is performed under local anaesthesia and involves:
- making a small opening in the cyst
- clearing out any content.
- resecting a small section of the cyst wall
Lifestyle and Home Remedies
There are various external and internal factors that can exacerbate dry eye symptoms. Environmental conditions such as wind, dry air, or high altitude can increase tear evaporation. Internal factors like hormonal changes, especially in women during menopause, can lead to decreased tear production.
Long-term use of contact lenses, certain medications like antihistamines and certain types of antidepressants, and medical conditions like Sjogren’s syndrome or rheumatoid arthritis, can also contribute to dry eyes.
So you need all the help you can get, even if it’s as simple as tweaking your daily habits and using a few home remedies for dry eyes. For instance, applying a warm compress to your eyelids each day can help stimulate the natural oil production in your eyelids, which is vital for lubricating your eyes and reducing dryness.
Following up the warm compress with a gentle cleaning of your eyelids using specially designed wipes can remove any excess oils or debris, promoting overall eyelid health and preventing blockages that might disrupt your tear film.
Moreover, dietary changes, such as incorporating more omega-3 fatty acids in foods like fish or flax seeds, or taking them as supplements, may alleviate dry eye symptoms. Omega-3 fatty acids play a vital role in improving the lipid layer of the tear film, reducing tear evaporation and promoting overall eye health.
Read: Why Are My Eyes Dry? Causes And Symptoms To Watch Out For
A Holistic Approach
Dr. Jimmy Lim is a leading expert in dry eyes management and his in-depth experience in dry eye syndrome, cornea, refractive, and cataract surgery has led to various guest speaking engagements in countries including Malaysia, the Philippines, Japan, Taiwan, Myanmar, Vietnam, Spain, France, Mexico, and the USA, as well as locally. He has shared insights on topics, including dry eye diseases, cataract and refractive surgery, and various eye conditions. Additionally, Dr. Lim has a strong focus on training junior ophthalmologists and conducting medical research.
Redefining the treatment paradigm of dry eye disease involves shifting our understanding of the condition from a symptom-based approach to a comprehensive, cause-based model.
In “Dry Eye Management Update (Santen, Jakarta Indonesia Webinar),” Dr Jimmy Lim expounded on integrating advancements in diagnostics, therapeutics, and patient education into the current care model.
Traditionally, the management of dry eye disease has focused on treating symptoms rather than addressing underlying causes. This symptom-based approach often involves the use of artificial tears to alleviate discomfort, but does not necessarily treat the root cause of the problem, leading mostly to temporary relief.
With the help of technological advancements, there’s an increased ability to accurately identify the specific subtype of dry eye disease a patient has, be it evaporative, aqueous-deficient, or a mix of both. New medications and procedures are now available that can directly target the pathophysiology of dry eye disease. What’s more, there’s growing recognition of the role of preventive measures and lifestyle changes in managing dry eye disease.
At JL Eye Specialists, we believe that an informed patient is better equipped to manage their condition. If you are experiencing any type of eye discomfort or changes in your vision, please don’t hesitate to book a consultation with our medical director, Dr Jimmy Lim.