Dry eye is a medical condition that affects an estimated 20 million people in the United States alone. Dry eye most often results from inadequate lubrication of the eye. Symptoms may be occasional discomfort or chronic and potentially vision threatening, whether mild or painful. Only your eye care specialist can properly diagnose your dry eye problem.
Symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome
Dry eye syndrome most commonly occurs in both eyes, but may affect one eye more than the other. Common symptoms include:
- Eyes that sting or burn, feel scratchy, become irritated and tear excessively
- Blurred, changing or decreased vision
- Pain and redness in the eye
- A feeling of heavy eyelids
- Mucus in or around their eye
- Difficulty wearing contact lenses
- People with more severe cases of dry eye often are also sensitive to light.
Treating Dry Eye Syndrome
Although dry eye syndrome has no cure, its symptoms can be treated.
- ARTIFICIAL TEARS: Over-the-counter artificial tears that lubricate the eye are the main treatment.
- OTHER TREATMENTS: Eye ointments, antibiotics (both oral and drops) and avoiding environmental triggers such as hair dryers and rooms with low humidity.
- RESTASIS: In 2002, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first prescription treatment for dry eyes, called Restasis (cyclosporine ophthalmic emulsion 0.5%). This treatment increases the body's ability to produce its own natural tears by treating one of the underlying causes of the disease—inflammation.
- PUNCTUAL PLUG: In cases of moderate to severe dry eye, tears can be conserved by placement of a temporary or permanent punctal plug into the channel at the inner corner of the eyelid where tears drain into the nose and the back of the throat.
- SURGERY: And in some cases, a surgical procedure to close the tear ducts is in order.