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What is Dry Eye Disease?

It is easy to confuse dry eye syndrome with eye strain or allergies. Those with allergies, typically complain of itching and although they can make the symptoms of dry eyes worse they should not be confused. Long hours staring at the computer at a computer screen or symptoms of air pollution symptoms may also exacerbate dry eyes, but they are not the real cause.

Your eyes need a "tear film" in order to have a smooth surface to protect the corneal surface. Changes to the quantity and quality of the tears produced leads to the symptoms of dry eye syndrome. An inadequate on incomplete tear film cannot provide adequate nutrition and protection to the surface of the eye. This can lead to damage of the cornea which leads to symptoms of the dry eye Syndrome.

Approximately six million women and three million men in the U.S. suffer moderate to severe dry eye disease. Unfortunately, the rate of diagnosis of dry eye is shockingly low, at about 5%. Dry eye complaints are less straight forward than issues like a cataract or glaucoma and can be difficult to diagnose and treat. Many eye doctors prefer not to treat such patients.

Dry eyes are the most common reason for a patient to come in to the office. Many eye doctor offices pay little attention to complaints of dry eye because it is so common and these patients can take more time. As part of your visit at Doctors For Visual Freedom, we take a careful history and try to understand all that is bothering the patient.

Dry eye symptoms happen when the eyes fail to produce an adequate quantity of tears or the tear composition is abnormal. Men and women both can have dry eyes but it is more common in women. Dry eyes tend to become more significant with age and the hormonal changes found with menopause. A wide variety of medical conditions are associated with dry eyes including but not limited to Sjögren's Syndrome, Rheumatoid arthritis, Fibromyalgia, Sarcoidosis, Psoriasis, Lupus Thyroid disease, and Rosacea, other collagen vascular diseases.

A wide variety of medications can also lead to dryness or cause worsening of symptoms. Antihistamines dry out all mucous membranes including the eyes. Other medicines contributing to dry eyes include tranquilizers, antidepressants, anxiolytics, diuretics and Acutane.

The dry eye syndrome has many similarities with allergies and eye strain. While allergies, long hours at the computer, high pollution, climatic conditions or just "eyestrain" may aggravate dry eye symptoms, they may not be the root cause.

You need a consistent "tear film" in order to protect the front surface of the cornea. In the Dry Eye Syndrome, changes tear production results in a change in the quantity and quality of the tears made. The abnormal tear film no longer provides adequate nourishment or protection to the cornea surface of the eye. This irregular tear film surface can lead to damage of cornea leading to irritation, blurriness and redness.

If you think that you have dry eyes, give our office a call.