Have your eyes ever felt dry or painful? These are symptoms of dry eye, a common and irritating condition. Your optometrist can help if you’re suffering from the effects of dry eye, but is there a cure? Learn more about dry eye, its causes, and treatments below.
What is Dry Eye?
Your tears lubricate and protect your eyes, but what happens if you don’t have this moisture? Dry eye can lead to irritation and damage your eyes. It is a common condition affecting millions of Americans each year.
Symptoms of Dry Eye
- Blurry vision
- Tired eyes
- Light sensitivity
- Red eyes
- Watery eyes
- Painful eyes
- Mucus around eyes
- Difficulty wearing contact lenses
Symptoms of both types of dry eye are the same, but how does each variant affect your ocular health?
Types of Dry Eye
Each kind of dry eye affects you differently. Evaporative dry eye occurs when oil (meibum) is unable to protect moisture on the eye from evaporating. Aqueous deficient dry eye happens when your tears cannot properly moisten your eyes.
Evaporative Dry Eye
Evaporative dry eye is the most common type of dry eye. Oil releases from small (meibomian) glands in your eyelids when you produce tears.
This oil prevents your tears from drying out, but these glands can become blocked or clogged. When not absorbed, the tears on your eye evaporate. This can cause pain and irritation.
Improperly functioning glands can cause evaporative dry eye as well. There are several causes of evaporative dry eye:
- Infrequent blinking
- Posterior blepharitis
- Environmental factors
- Eyelid conditions
- Eye allergies
- Vitamin A deficiency
While some causes of evaporative dry eyes are simple and others are complex, all can harm your eyes. Understanding how these factors affect your eyes can help you identify any issues and take preventive measures when possible.
Aqueous Deficient Dry Eye
Aqueous deficient dry eye is caused by a lack of tear production. Tears hydrate your eyes each time you blink and a lack of production can cause pain. This is usually caused by:
- Medical conditions
- Desensitized corneal nerves
Dry eyes are complicated and an optometrist can help find the cause of your symptoms. After diagnosis, is there a cure for dry eyes?
Is There a Cure for Dry Eye?
The short answer is no. There is no cure for dry eye disease, but you don’t need to suffer from its effects. Your optometrist can recommend several treatment plans to offer you long-term relief.
Treatment of Dry Eye
While there is no known cure for dry eye disease, there are many ways to treat it. Treatments offer your eyes long-term relief and comfort. Your optometrist will recommend the best course of action for you following a diagnosis, including:
- Eye drops
- Nutritional supplements
- Thermal treatment
- Lifestyle changes
- Punctal plugs
Eye drops are a common treatment for dry eye disease. They moisturize the surface of the eye and relieve discomfort. Eye drops can be purchased over-the-counter or prescribed to you, and your optometrist will recommend what is best for your condition.
A healthy diet can help to maintain healthy eyes. Nutrients like Omega-3 fatty acids found in nuts, leafy greens, and fish can reduce eye inflammation and increase meibum production. A study revealed vitamin C, vitamin E, lutein, zeaxanthin, and zinc are beneficial for your eye health.
Thermal treatment is used to relieve clogged meibomian glands. The heat warms the glands and the meibum can flow easier. Increasing tear production provides relief of dry eye symptoms.
Something specific in your lifestyle may be contributing to your dry eye symptoms. Your optometrist may recommend you make environmental changes. To reduce symptoms of dry eye, certain lifestyle changes can help, including:
- Limiting screen time
- Drinking more water
- Using a humidifier
- Getting enough sleep
TearCare® is a treatment for evaporative dry eye similar to a warm compress. Heat is applied directly to the eyelid and works to melt the blockage within the meibomian glands. Afterward, gentle massage ensures the removal of the gland blockage. It’s an effective way to treat dry eyes and provide ocular comfort.
Punctal plugs treat dry eye by plugging the openings to the tear ducts. The plug conserves your tears and any eye drops used. Dry eye is relieved because your tears can moisten your eyes longer.
Your optometrist can refer you to a medical specialist if necessary. Regardless of what treatments you seek, your optometrist has your best interests in mind.
Visit your Optometrist
Dry eye disease can affect you for many reasons. The condition is not curable, but very treatable, and you can find long-term relief. If you experience any pain, discomfort, or symptoms of dry eye, book an appointment with your optometrist.