Virtually everyone suffers from dry, irritated eyes at some point in their lives. It’s often a short-term, temporary condition that disappears overnight with rest. We often associate eye dryness with being tired.
You can, however, experience chronic dry eye, a condition in which irritation doesn’t go away with a good night’s sleep. There can be many reasons for this, and one of the most common is aging, during which the composition of tears changes.
IC Laser Eye Clinic specializes in the treatment of chronic dry eye disease at our offices in Philadelphia and Bensalem, Pennsylvania, and Hamilton, New Jersey. While the condition can’t always be cured, we have the knowledge and strategies you need to help cope with its symptoms.
Rather than just a slightly salty water solution, the composition of your tears maintains a balance among three layers, each with its own role in keeping your eyes comfortable and protected.
Closest to the eye’s surface is the mucin layer, which stabilizes the middle aqueous layer and helps to promote even tear coverage while also providing nourishment for the eye. The aqueous layer is the most plentiful. It also nourishes the eye surface, while protecting the eye from irritants and flushing away particles.
The outer lipid layer serves as an oily film that prevents the aqueous layer from evaporating too quickly. When the balance among the three tear film layers changes, dry eye may result.
Although the tear film balance may be upset for many reasons, two of the most common are a decrease in production of the aqueous layer or an increase in its evaporation. Since the aqueous layer accounts for 98% of tear volume, loss in volume can lead to increased irritation of the eyes.
In general, your body makes fewer tears as you get older. When the glands that produce the outer layer underproduce, the aqueous layer may evaporate faster. This could lead to increased eye irritation, and your body may respond by making more aqueous tears. In some cases, dry eye disease can create very wet conditions in your eyes as tear balance is lost.
A common contemporary cause of dry eye results from decreasing blink rates. Viewing digital screens such as computer monitors or smartphones can slow the rate at which you blink. This creates more time for evaporation, even when tear film production remains normal.
The ideal treatment for dry eye depends on the underlying cause. If it can be cleared up, then your dry eye condition may also end.
Otherwise, an artificial tear product is usually the starting point for relief. These are available over the counter at pharmacies. Choose a product designed for tear replacement, not eye drops meant to reduce redness, which can make dry eye worse.
Prescription medications take treatments to the next level, reducing eye inflammation or stimulating tear production.
Our ophthalmologists often suggest MiBoFlo Thermoflo®, a treatment for blocked meibomian glands, the source of the outer layer of the tear film. This can restore the proper tear balance to slow evaporation.
With three locations in the Philadelphia area, we’re conveniently located to help you. Call or click to book your appointment with the nearest office. The end of your chronic dry eye suffering is in sight.