Dry Eye Syndrome: Everything there is to know
Healthy eyes are moist. When your eyes are thriving, they are bright, with stainless white sclera that doesn’t have a yellow or brown tint. There are many outside factors that can dry out the eyes temporarily; like the weather or air-conditioning. But, Dry Eye Syndrome is a chronic and typically progressive condition that isn’t always curable.
Dry Eye Syndrome is a condition where the sufferer’s eyes do not naturally self-lubricate. This can, of course, be very painful and can make regular activities like reading and driving extra difficult.
Even though it sounds like a one-in-a-million condition, Dry Eye Syndrome — also called Dry Eye Disease (DED) — is surprisingly one of the most common eye conditions around the world. In fact, it is the most common reason for visits to the optometrist.
Who gets Dry Eye Syndrome?
Women are more susceptible to DED. People who use computers for extended periods of time are also more prone to suffer from dry eyes. Nowadays, the increase of screen time for everyone, young and old, has made DED a common complaint.
A more recent, prevalent eye condition is called “computer vision syndrome”. Because of all the time people now spend looking at their phones and laptops, the excessive exposure to the light and rays of the screen has started to affect our eyes and brains.
Symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome include eyestrain, blurred vision, dry eyes, red eyes, burning, light sensitivity, headaches and pain in the shoulders, neck and back.
If you spend your days looking at screens, especially if it is part of your day job, glasses are advised.
Research published a review in the Journal of Global Health, reported that studies have shown the prevalence of dry eyes ranges from 5% to as high as 50% in different populations across the world.
What are the symptoms of DED?
DED is caused by a lack of lubrication and presents with tiny cuts on the surface of the eye. Too few tears may be produced, or tears may evaporate too quickly, explains MSD Manual.
There are many medical terms for the different symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome.
Generally, the term Keratitis sicca is used to describe dryness and inflammation of the cornea (the membrane that lines the eyelids and covers the white of the eye).
The cornea is the clear layer in front of the iris and pupil.
Keratoconjunctivitis sicca affects the cornea and the conjunctiva simultaneously. This condition usually occurs in older people, as the eyes become more light-sensitive as we age.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the eyes may become dry, red and inflamed. The main symptoms are discomfort and sensitivity to light.
Prescription and lubricating eye drops can reduce dryness.
Dysfunctional tear syndrome
Used to describe the inadequate quality of tears produced as a side effect and cause of DED, Dysfunctional Tear Syndrome is a condition that involves the tears and the surface of your eyes.
Other symptoms include pain in and behind the eyes, distorted night time vision as well as the constant feeling that something is irritating the eye, under the eyelid.
Loads of people also have trouble wearing contact lenses when suffering from DED; the contact lenses feel scratchy because there is already irritation to start with.
A contradictory symptom that can usually result in misdiagnosis is watery, runny eyes. The liquid doesn’t lubricate the eyes though, so the eyes feel itchy and dry while being wet and leaky at the same time.
It also comes with a stringy mucus in or around your eyes. People who experience this symptom will also feel compelled to close their eyes periodically, experience blurred eye vision and eye fatigue; which is more commonly known as eye strain or ocular fatigue.
If you experience any of these symptoms, get to your doctor immediately.
How do you manage DED and is it curable?
DED isn’t curable, but there are many ways of easing the symptoms and managing them to live a fairly normal life. The main treatment for DED is artificial tears. The following methods can be used for DED or even to remedy a temporary bout of eye dryness.
Artificial lubrication, also known as ‘eye drops’, are fairly common. It is used to treat eye infections as well as keep the eyes moist and free from particles and irritants.
People who suffer from severe DED may need something more potent like anti-inflammatory and cyclosporine eye drops.
You will also need to have a conscious change of behaviour like blinking more regularly and avoiding air-conditioned areas. It may be difficult to do if you work in an office environment, but if it is unavoidable then remember to constantly lubricate your eyes to avoid damaging them permanently. The treatment and control of DED are important to prevent complications and worsening of the disease as you get older.
You will definitely benefit from having a humidifier at your desk.
The Medical Society offers basic eye tests so that you can monitor the condition of your eyes. Eye tests not only check whether or not your vision is deteriorating, but also keep tabs on the health of each part of your eye; by examining the structures of the front of your eyes. This includes the eyelids, cornea, conjunctiva, lens and iris.