Dry eyes can make your eye feel dry, scratchy, irritated and uncomfortable. It often affects both eyes but sometimes one eye is affected more than the other. It can make you feel as if you have something in your eye, like an eyelash or a piece of grit, even when there is nothing there. Remarkably, dry eyes are very often watery.
This is because a dry eye is caused by a poor-quality tear film, not a lack of “water” in the tear film.
Dry eye doesn’t usually cause long term problems with your sight, but in more severe cases it can become very painful and the dryness can cause permanent damage to the front of the eye.
The Tear Film
Every time you blink you create the tear film across the front of your eye. Dry eye happens if these tears aren’t spread properly or if the tear film is of poor quality.
There are 3 layers to the tear film; the inner mucous layer; the middle watery/aqueous layer; and the outer oily/lipid layer.
Anything affecting the composition of this tear film can lead to dry eye problems. As part of the tear film is produced by tiny glands in the eye lids, blockage or inflammation of these glands (called BLEPHARITIS) is a very common cause of dry eye.
Most people with dry eyes need to use some form of eye drops, also known as “artificial tears”.
Eye drops aim to supplement and replace your natural tears and make the eye more comfortable. They can also prevent any damage to the front of your eye, which can happen if the eye is dry for a long time.
Eye drops do not contain any drugs, they are just lubricating or replacement tears. This means they can be used as frequently as necessary.
There are three main types of treatment for dry eyes which may be prescribed:
- Artificial Tears
Artificial tear drops are made by many different companies and often patients find one brand works better for them than another. Aqueous replacement drops, e.g. Hypromellose; Lumecare Tear drops, are a tear substitute and replace the watery tear layer.
Others work by lubricating the surface of the eye to stabilise the tear film, e.g. Systane, Hycosan, Oxyal. Some patients may develop a sensitivity to the preservative used in the eye drops, especially if they are used frequently, which can cause soreness. In this case preservative-free drops are available.
- Eye Gels
If standard eye drops are not improving your symptoms, you may be advised to try thicker gel-like drops which are made from different chemicals and may last longer in the eye.
They work in the same way as the ordinary drops, but you don’t have to put them in as often. Examples are; Gel tears, Viscotears, Lumecare Long Lasting Eye Gel.
Ointments are available to help keep your eye moist, but because they are sticky and cause blurry vision, are only advised for use overnight. Ointments are usually used in conjunction with eye drops during the day.
Examples are Simple eye ointment, Lacri-Lube.
- Diet & Nutrition
There is some debate on whether or not diet helps with reducing the symptoms of dry eye. In particular, certain oils, omega 3 and 6 are thought to help with dry eye.
If you are concerned with your eyesight and want to have a consultation with your local optometrist, please visit the practice to make an appointment or call to speak to one of our staff members on 0115 933 2999.