What is Dry Eye?
The eye depends on the flow of tears to provide constant moisture and lubrication to maintain vision and comfort. Tears are a combination of water, for moisture; oils, for lubrication; mucus, for even spreading; and antibodies and special proteins, for resistance to infection. Special glands located around the eye secrete these components. When there is an imbalance in this tear system, a person may experience dry eyes.
When tears do not adequately lubricate the eye, a person may experience: Pain, light sensitivity, gritty sensation, feeling of a foreign body or sand in the eye, itching, redness, and blurring of vision.
Sometimes, a person with a dry eye will have excess tears running down the cheeks, which may seem confusing. This happens when the eye isn't getting enough lubrication. The eye sends a distress signal through the nervous system for more lubrication. In response, the eye is flooded with tears to try to compensate for the underlying dryness. However, these tears are mostly water and do not have the lubricating qualities or the rich composition of normal tears. They will wash debris away, but they will not coat the eye surface properly. In addition, because these emergency tears tend to arrive too late, the eye needs to regenerate and treatment is necessary.
What Causes Dry Eyes
In addition to an imbalance in the tear-flow system of the eye, the drying out of the tear film can cause dry eye. This can be due to dry air created by air conditioning, heat, or other environmental conditions. Other conditions that may cause dry eyes are: The natural aging process, especially during menopause. Side effects of using certain medications such as antihistamines and birth control pills. Diseases that affect the ability to make tears, such as Sjogren's syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis and collagen vascular diseases. Structural problems with the eyes that don't allow them to close properly or a problem with the tear ducts.
Artificial Tear Drops and Ointments
The use of artificial teardrops is the traditional treatment for dry eye. Artificial teardrops are available over the counter. No one-drop works for everyone, so you might have to experiment to find the drop that works for you. If you have chronic dry eye, it is important to use the drops even when your eyes feel fine, to keep them lubricated. If your eyes dry out while you sleep, you can use a thicker lubricant, such as an ointment, at night.
Temporary Punctal Occlusion
Sometimes it is necessary to close the ducts that drain tears out of the eye. This is done via a painless procedure where a plug that will dissolve quickly is inserted into the tear drain of the lower eyelid. This is a temporary procedure, done to determine whether permanent plugs can provide an adequate supply of tears.
Permanent Punctal Occlusion
If temporary plugging of the tear drains works well, then silicone plugs (punctal occlusion) may be used. The plugs will hold tears around the eyes as long as they are in place. They can be removed. Rarely, the plugs may come out spontaneously or migrate down the tear drain. Many patients find that the plugs improve comfort and reduce the need for artificial tears.
Omega 3 fatty acids
The scientists have discovered a unique way to address many of the underlying inflammatory processes associated with dry eye syndrome.Oral administration of specific omega 6 essential fatty acids that contain sufficient amounts of gamma-linolenic-acid (GLA) are suggested to stimulate the natural production of tear-specific anti-inflammatory series one prostaglandins (PGE1).
Clinical studies have suggested that the nutrient co-factors included in Omega 3 fatty acids may restore normal production of lubricants in the eyes and other affected parts of the body, such as mucous membranes of the mouth and vagina, and interior body surfaces such as joints and synovial membranes.
In developing a tear-specific formula for oral administration, we recommend you included the nutrient co-factors suggested necessary to address dry eye syndrome by physiologic rather than pharmacological means. These ingredients are designed to work synergistically rather than individually, and are suggested in published scientific literature to effectively address the inflammatory process responsible for most dry eye syndrome, as well as enhancing and restoring function to the glands involved in all three layers of the tear film."
In 2002, the FDA approved the prescription eye drop Restasis for the treatment of chronic dry eye. It is currently the only prescription eye drop that helps your eyes increase their own tear production with continued use.