Your eyes constantly produce tears containing natural infection fighting antibiotics. Blinking ensures tears cover the eye’s surface before being sucked through two small holes in the nasal corner of your eyelids. These are the tear duct openings or puncta that drain tears to the nose and throat.
Dry eye syndrome, is a common condition that occurs when the eyes do not make enough tears or the tears evaporate too quickly. Most patients with Dry Eye Syndrome have a condition known as Evaporative Dry Eye and the commonest cause of evaporative dry eye is dysfunction of the oil producing glands in the eyelid edges – Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD). Patients with MGD have a ‘poor quality tear film’ which leads to increased evaporation of the normal tears which in turn causes the symptoms of Dry Eye.
Although the condition can affect people of any age, your chances of developing dry eye syndrome increase as you get older. It’s estimated that up to one in every three people over the age of 65 experiences problems with dry eyes. Dry eye syndrome is also more common in women than men. Dry eye syndrome is not usually a serious condition.Treatments are available to help relieve the symptoms, which include eye drops to lubricate the eyes, medications to reduce any inflammation, and (if necessary) surgery to prevent tears from draining away easily.
It is more common in women than men, and is found most commonly in the over 60s age group. However, it can happen at any age.
In Dry Eyes, why do the eyes sometime water excessively? How can the eyes be dry if they are watering all the time? This a paradox which is explained as follows. Blinking spreads a tear film over the surface of the eye – the eyelids do the opposite to what a windscreen wiper does on a car. The eyelids spread a thin film of tears over the front of the eye.
When there are not enough tears, or if the quality of tears is poor, the surface of the eye becomes dry, and this causes inflammation.
Special receptors on the surface of the eye are then stimulated by this inflammation, which causes a ‘reflex tear production’. This leads to the main tear glands to literally ‘switch the tap on’ in an attempt to wet the dry surface. The result is often the production of excessive watery tears ( as opposed to oily tears) which results in watering of the eyes.
Dry eye syndrome can occur when the complex tear production process is disrupted in some way. There are many different reasons why this can happen, although a single identifiable cause is not often found.
Common causes include:
• being in a hot or windy climate
• wearing contact lenses
• certain underlying medical conditions, such as blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelids)
• side effects of certain medications
• Eye make up
• hormonal changes, such as during the menopause
Treatments are available to help relieve the symptoms, which include eye drops to lubricate the eyes, medications to reduce any inflammation, and (if necessary) surgery to prevent tears from draining away easily. As well as medical treatments, there are some things you can do yourself to help prevent dry eye syndrome or reduce the symptoms;
• keeping your eyes and eyelids clean and protecting them from dusty, smoky, windy and dry environments
• using your computer or laptop correctly to avoid eye strain
• using a humidifier to moisten the air
• eating a healthy diet that includes omega-3 fats
• Drink plenty of water ( 2 litres a day)