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What is Dry Eye Syndrome?

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Dry Eye Syndrome (or keratoconjunctivitis sicca) is a condition that results from the inadequate lubrication of the surface of the eye.
Millions of people worldwide experience dry eye syndrome. It is not always easy to diagnose
and can be easily mistaken for other conditions such as ocular allergies and infections.

What are the typical symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome?

Dry Eye Syndrome can vary in severity from very mild with little to no symptoms to quite severe
with symptoms that can affect one’s quality of life. Not everyone experiences or describes
symptoms in the same way.

Typical symptoms :

  • Scratchy/gritty sensation
  • itchy eyes
  • burning/stinging sensation
  • redness of the conjunctiva (the white of the eyes)
  • blurred or fluctuating vision
  • tired eyes or general discomfort of the eyes
  • excessive tearing
  • light sensitivity (photophobia)

What is the “Tear Film”?

The front surface of our eyes are covered by a thin film known as the “tear film”. This film
consists of three main layers : Lipid (oil layer), aqueous (water layer) and mucin (mucus layer).
The tear film helps create a smooth surface on the front of the eyes to maintain clear vision and the eyes stay lubricated and comfortable.
Any abnormality of any one of the layers can lead to an unstable tear film , resulting in
symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome.

What are some of the causes of Dry Eye Syndrome?

The components of our tear film are continuously being produced by specialized glands and they are drained through drainage channels in our lower and upper eyelids.
Dry Eye Syndrome is typically due to either inadequate tear film production (usually of the aqueous layer) or due to excessive tear evaporation (typically due to inadequate lipid layer). Common causes:

  • Aging: Tear production typically decreases with age
  • Hormonal changes including menopause
  • Medication side effects
  • Environmental factors
  • Medical conditions: certain medical conditions such as Sjogrens, rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory conditions may contribute to Dry Eye Syndrome
  • Contact lens wear
  • Reduced blinking
  • Meibomian (lipid producing) Gland Dysfunction

Diagnosing Dry Eye Syndrome

Dry Eyes can be diagnosed by your optometrist using specialized equipment to determine both the quality and quantity of tears. A slit lamp biomicroscope is used to carefully examine the surface of the eyes. Often times fluorescein dye is used to study the tear film and determine tear break up times and help diagnose dry eyes. Your doctor will also ask you specific questions which will also help in diagnosing Dry Eye Syndrome

Treatment of Dry Eye Syndrome

A variety of approaches can be taken for treatment.

  • Ocular Lubricants (Artificial Tears) : For mild to moderate cases, supplemental
  • Warm compresses
  • Topical steroids: Dry Eyes can be inflammatory in nature and a mild steroid may be necessary for a short period of time to treat this inflammation
  • Oral supplements such as Omega 3 Fatty Acids
  • Topical Cyclosporin (Restasis)
  • Punctal Plugs
  • Environmental control: Avoiding dry, drafty, smoky, dusty environments. Use of humidifiers can be helpful.
  • Eyelid hygiene

A thorough eye examination is important to properly diagnose and treat dry eyes. Treatments are usually customized to each patient depending on their signs and symptoms.
Come in to Brantford Eye Care and book an appointment with one of our optometrists !

Written by Dr Jillian Yeaman

I am very excited to serve the Branford community as a part of the Brantford Eye Care team! I attended McMaster University and received my Honors Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry in 2012. I completed my Doctor of Optometry degree at the University of Waterloo in 2016; during this time I took part in an externship program in Mobile, Alabama, where I gained experience in the management of retinal and neuro-ophthalmic diseases.

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