What is Dry Eye Syndrome (DES)?
Dry Eye Syndrome (DES), also known as Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS) or Dry Eye Disease, is a condition that causes dry, irritated eyes. It is a very common condition – affecting somewhere between 5-30% of the general population. For our elderly patients, some 70% of patients aged 70 and up are affected. The severity of the symptoms, and how long they can last, varies from patient to patient. Some patients may have mild symptoms occasionally, while others may have severe symptoms every day. Symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome can include feeling of dryness, itching, burning, a sandy/gritty feeling, blurry vision, redness, and/or pain. For those affected, dry eye relief can feel like a life saver.
Below we’ll talk about Dry Eye Syndrome and how your ophthalmologist, or dry eye specialist, can determine the root cause behind your dry eyes.
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Causes of Dry Eye Syndrome (DES)?
There are many forms of Dry Eye Syndrome and some can happen simply because of our lifestyle choices. These can include excessive computer or cell phone use, wearing contact lenses, eating unhealthy fats, and smoking. Dry Eye Syndrome can also be caused by other medical conditions the patient may be suffering from. This can include pregnancy, meibomian gland dysfunction, Vitamin A deficiency, history of LASIK surgery, Sjogren syndrome, among many others. There are different types of medications that can also cause DES, such as blood pressure medications, antihistamines/allergy medicine, antidepressants, and hormone replacement therapy. Your dry eye specialist will work with you to determine the underlying cause of your Dry Eye Syndrome and start treatment that provides relief.
What Keeps Our Eyes Moisturized Naturally?
In order to understand Dry Eye Syndrome, it’s important to understand what keeps our eyes healthy and moisturized. Your eyes are continuously creating a moisture control environment made up of mainly 3 layers. This not only keeps the eye moisturized, but it’s also important to keeping our eyes healthy and keeping our vision clear. The 3 layers in the moisture control environment are made up of the following:
Tears: Tears are the watery component of the moisture control environment. They are produced by the tear glands, which are found on the inside of the eyelids and in the lacrimal gland.
Oil: The oil component of the moisture control environment enables the eyes to hold on to the tears by forming a barrier. The oil component also adds another level of lubrication for the eyes. The oil is produced by the Meibomian glands, which are found on the borders of the eyelids.
Mucus: Mucus not only provides a third level of lubrication, but it also acts to hold both the tears and oil in your eyes, providing a barrier between your eyes and the elements and toxins in the environment.
Whenever there is a disruption to the eye’s ability to produce these three layers, or there is something wrong with one or more of the layers, it can lead to dry eye syndrome. Dry eye treatment can vary depending on the root cause of the problem.