Normal eyes are constantly covered by a tear film, a permanent layer designed to stay intact between blinks. A solid tear film prevents the nerves of the cornea, the transparent front surface of our eyes, from being irritated and allows the eye to maintain clear, comfortable vision.
Tears are a complex mixture of water, fats, proteins, electrolytes, bacteria-fighting substances, and growth factors that regulate various cell processes. This mixture helps to keep the surface of our eyes soft and clean. Good vision is impossible without the tear film layer.
The tear film protects, wets and lubricates our eyes. Every time our eyelids are blinked, it helps to clear our eyes of any residue, thus reducing the risk of eye infection. When irritated by dust, or damaged by wind, smoke, or soot, extra tears form to help wash away foreign matter.
The decrease in the production of fluids from our tear glands disrupts the strength of the tear membrane, causing it to break down rapidly and form dry spots on the cornea that cause irritation and decreased vision. An imbalance in the substances that make up the tear film can also cause our eyes to dry out.
The signs and symptoms of dry eye, which are usually expected to occur in both eyes, may include the following:
*Feeling that there is a foreign substance in the eye
*Stinging, burning or itching sensation in the eye
*Residues such as string in or around the eye
*Increased eye irritation in smoke or wind
*Eyestrain and/or blurred vision after a long reading
*Difficulty in wearing contact lenses
In some people, dry eyes are caused by an imbalance in the composition of their tears. In some people, however, the eyes do not produce enough tears to keep them adequately lubricated and hydrated. Other causes, such as medications and environmental factors, can also cause dry eyes.
Dry eye occurs with a decrease in tear production or the development of a negative quality of tears. Just like with skin and hair, our tear production usually declines as we get older. When the eyes do not produce enough tears, our eyes are easily irritated. The medical name for this ailment is “keratoconjunctivitis sicca”. The tear film has three basic layers: oil, water and mucous. Problems with any of these layers can lead to dry eye symptoms. Our eyelids blink, spreading tears as a continuous, thin membrane all over the surface of our eyes.
Problems not related to tear production or tear quality can also cause dryness and itchy eyes. These:
*Inflammation along the edge of the eyelids (Blepharitis)
*Discomfort in which the eyelid turns inward (Entropion)
*Discomfort in which the eyelid droops from the eyeball (Ectropion)
*Environmental irritants such as smoke, sun, wind, low humidity, indoor heating
*Disrupted blink reflex
*Allergic reaction to eye drops or ointments
*Long time elapsed between blinks when you concentrate on something visually, for example, while working on a computer, driving a vehicle, or reading something.
Although dry eyes can affect both men and women at any age, the condition is more common among women, especially after menopause. This may be due to hormonal changes. Damage to the tear glands from inflammation or radiation can interfere with tear production. Dry eye can also occur with medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, scleroderma, and Sjogren’s syndrome.
It may sound contradictory; Despite dry eyes, tears may still flow from the cheeks of the patient from time to time. Tears are produced in two ways: 1-In basic tear production, tears are produced at a slow, regular rate and your eyes are kept oily. 2-In the process of reflex tear production, large quantities of tears are produced in response to eye irritation or sensation. Reflex tears contain more water than basic tears, and the amount of mucous and fat is low. When the eyes are irritated by dryness, the lacrimal glands can flood the eyes with a flood of reflex tears. The fluid fills and overflows the tear ducts and overflows the eyelids. Because these tears are of low quality, they do not pass dryness. This, in turn, can cause more tear production.
See your doctor if you have prolonged redness, irritation, tiredness or pain in your eyes, or if you have the above-mentioned dry eye signs or symptoms. Your doctor can take steps to determine what is hurting your eyes or refer you to a specialist.
For most people with dry eyes, it is a chronic condition. The aim of the treatment is to reduce the number of ‘bad days’ and to ensure that the troubles experienced during these times are minimized as much as possible.
PRECAUTIONS THAT THE INDIVIDUAL CAN TAKE:
Protection is superior to treatment. Take preventive steps. Like any liquid, tears evaporate when exposed to air. The following simple measures are helpful to slow evaporation:
*Avoid blowing air into your eyes. Do not point hair dryers, automobile radiators, air conditioners or propellers at your eyes.
*Wear glasses on windy days. Wrap-around glasses can help reduce the effects of wind.
*Keep the humidity in your home between 30 and 50 percent.
*A humidifier that can be used in winter can add moisture to the dry air inside.
*Don’t forget to blink. Consciously blinking repeatedly can help distribute your own tears more evenly.
*Avoid rubbing your eyes. You can irritate your eyes even more by rubbing them.