Dry eye disease is very common in Canada, especially in the higher prairies and mountainous provinces. It is so prevalent that it is estimated that one out of every three Canadians experience some degree of dry eyes. Many of these occurrences can be easily treated with over the counter eye drops, however there are some levels of dry eyes that does require some form of medical intervention.
In most cases of intervention, the dry eyes are associated with a risk factor. Such risks include:
- Thyroid issues
- Damaged tear ducts from trauma
In addition, sometimes severe dry eyes can be attributed to tears not being properly formulated and evaporate too quickly from the surface of the eyes. This is commonly called aqueous tear-deficient dry eye, and is attributed to the lacrimal glands in the periphery of the eye socket having some sort of disease, deficiency, or malformation.
Symptoms of Dry Eyes
Common dry eyes usually present with:
- Red, itchy eye surfaces
- Excessive tearing to moisten the eye
- Itchiness in the inner corner of the eye by the tear ducts
- Heavy eyelids
- Gritty feeling when blinking
- In cases of severe dry eyes, it is not uncommon for there to be a burning sensation on the surface of the eye, sudden and exceptional eye fatigue such as when reading from a computer screen or book, and a stringy, sticky discharge from the eye.
Dry eyes are also not uncommon after eye surgery, including lens replacement surgery and LASIK procedures. In these cases, eye drops are usually prescribed to assist the body’s natural tearing to re-moisten the eye.
Treatment of Dry Eyes
By far the most common treatment of dry eyes is via over the counter eye drops that are formulated to resemble natural tears. Using these eye drops as necessary should not have any adverse effects, however, as with all medications, over use may lead to negative side effects.
In cases of severe dry eye, a drug known as cyclosporine may be prescribed. It is the only known medication specifically meant to treat dry eye, by reducing inflammation, promoting tear production, and helping manage symptoms of dry eyes. As well, corticosteroid anti-inflammatory eye drops may be used should the dry eye present as inflammation in the eyelid and on the surface of the eye.
In rare cases, including where tear ducts are damaged by trauma or disease, a surgery known as a punctual cautery can be performed, where some drainage ducts from the eyes are permanently closed, to allow what natural tears that are produced to stay on the surface of the eye longer.