Dry eye syndrome, or keratoconjunctivitis sicca, is a common condition affecting millions of people every year. Symptoms may include irritated eyes, a gritty or sandy feeling, burning, a foreign body sensation, blurry vision, or excess watering.
CAUSES AND ASSOCIATED CONDITIONS
Causes of and conditions associated with chronic dry eyes include but are not limited to our desert environment and casino interiors, use of fans, previous LASIK or blepharoplasties, systemic medications, increased exposure to air because of thyroid eye disease or Bell’s palsy (if the affected eye cannot adequately close), blepharitis, Sjogren’s syndrome, rosacea, and chemotherapy.
Dry eyes are most often first addressed with daily use of ocular lubricants such as artificial tears, gel drops, gel, or lubricating ointment as directed and tolerated. Some people respond to prescription medications such as Restasis or Xiidra. Punctal plug insertion or cautery may be considered if symptoms persist.
Tears are composed of an inner mucin layer close to the cornea (window of the eye) for even spreading, a middle water layer with moisture and proteins for resistance to infection, and an outer oil (lipid) layer to seal the tear film. Thus, treating blepharitis and meibomitis, eyelid conditions which characteristically have deficient secretion of oil from the meibomian glands, can yield significant relief of dry eyes.
Taking re-esterified omega-3 fatty acid supplements in fish oil or flaxseed oil (1-3g two to three times daily by mouth per day (to achieve a therapeutic effect) helps retard the evaporation of tears because omega-3 fatty acids soften lipids in the meibomian glands of the eyelids and improve their release of lipids to the outer tear film layer.
Adjustments to your lifestyle such as avoiding blowing fans in the room while sleeping; redirecting a ceiling fan to blow air upward; wearing an eyeecoTM eye mask while sleeping to prevent dessicating drafts from fans, to hold moisture over your eyes, or to hinder pressurized air from a CPAP or biPAP from reaching your eyes; and/or adding a humidifier to your home can ameliorate symptoms.