Options in Dry Eye Treatment

Dry eyes are becoming a recognised health concern. So much so that the condition has been termed dry eye disease or dry eye syndrome. Dry eye symptoms can vary widely. Sometimes this condition presents no symptoms at all. People with dry eyes may not identify their eyes as being dry. That makes the first hurdle to effective dry eye treatment an accurate diagnosis.

Dry eye symptoms may present as:

  • Dryness of the eyes
  • A gritty sensation or the feeling of a particle being stuck in the eye (also known as a foreign body sensation)
  • Red eyes, either on the whites of the eye or the rims of the eyelids, or both
  • Blurry, variable vision that often fluctuates with blinking
  • Sore eyes
  • Tired eyes
  • Watery eyes; a dry ocular surface may trigger the tearing reflex resulting in the overproduction of tears

Dry Eye Disease

Effective dry eye treatment revolves around an appropriate diagnosis. This is not only the fact that dry eye handles your discomfort but also what type of dry eye you have.

Two broad categories underlying dry eyes are aqueous deficiency causes and evaporative causes. More often than not, dry eyes arise from a combination of these two classifications.

Aqueous deficiency dry eye (ADDE) relates to the aqueous component. It is produced by the lacrimal gland, of the layered tear film that covers the surface of the eye. The predominant cause of ADDE is Sjogren’s syndrome. This is an autoimmune disease, which can affect the function of the lacrimal gland. Other causes include damage or obstruction of the lacrimal gland or the use of certain systemic medications.

Evaporative dry eye (EDE) may be divided into internal and external factors. The most common cause of EDE is a dysfunction of the oil glands in the eyelids. This is Meibomian glands.

Other contributing factors may be;

  • Poor eyelid positioning and function,
  • Vitamin A deficiency,
  • Topical medications or the preservatives in them,
  • Contact lens wear, and
  • Ocular surface conditions, such as allergies.

Dry Eye Treatment

Once the underlying factors of your dry eyes are identified, dry eye treatment may be more directed.

The obvious first step in the treatment of dry eyes is to remove or adjust any exacerbating factors. The solution for alleviating your dry eyes may be as simple. Try redirecting air-conditioning or heating vents away from you or turning on a humidifier in the room. If you have identified a certain medication as contributing to your discomfort, change the formulation. If contact lenses are the culprit, a more hydrated material or reserving contact lens wear for special occasions may be the solution.

Beyond these easy steps, many patients turn to eye drops for relief of their dry eyes. Lubricating eye drops, also known as artificial tears or tear supplements. They rehydrate a dry ocular surface, stabilising the tear film. Additionally, they add a layer of protection against the external environment. If you’ve ever walked down the eye-care aisle of the pharmacy, you’ll have noticed a multitude of eye-drop brands. Except for allergies, aim for a lubricant for dry or irritated eyes, rather than drops for red or itchy eyes. Artificial tears are not considered a medication. Use throughout the day as needed. If you know you have particularly sensitive eyes, you may want to find a preservative-free lubricant.

You may have found that a simple warm compress can often soothe tired, dry eyes. This is because the heat helps to soften any solidified oils in the Meibomian glands. By allowing them to be expressed more freely, the quality of your tear film may improve. An effective treatment with Meibomian gland dysfunction-related dry eye is a warm compress to closed eyelids. Followed by a gentle lid massage with your fingers to encourage the expression of these softened blockages.

Looking Ahead

As we continue to advance our understanding of dry eye disease, we are also seeing the development of more novel dry eye therapies. These include the use of intense pulsed light (IPL) applied to the eyelids and surrounding areas, eye gel or drops based on natural manuka honey, using a patient’s own blood serum to formulate tear supplements, and prescription immunosuppressant eyedrop medications. As this area of eye care is constantly evolving, keep an eye on this space.

Call us at 1300 297 583 for more dry eye treatment guides.

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About the expert

Dr Anton van Heerden, MBCHB; FRANZCO
Ophthalmologist & Laser Eye Surgeon

Based in Melbourne, but with a reputation that transcends borders, Dr Van Heerden sets the highest bar for laser vision correction surgery in Australia. While his skills and experience are second to none, it is his fun, caring and down to earth nature that truly set’s him apart from the rest. You can sit back and enjoy the journey knowing every detail has been carefully considered.

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