Having dry eyes can feel incredibly uncomfortable, and it is one of the most prevalent eye conditions in the world; more than 20% of the world’s population suffers from dry eye syndrome.
It is also a common reason for visiting the optician. So, what causes dry eye syndrome, how can you recognise the signs and what dry eye treatment is available?
What is dry eye syndrome?
Dry eye syndrome is caused by a chronic lack of moisture and lubrication on the surface of the eye. Your eyes require a consistent layer of tears on the surface of your eye, in order to keep your eyes healthy and comfortable. Tears are responsible for keeping your eyes clean, and are instrumental in washing away debris or microorganisms that may lead to an eye infection.
There are different terms for dry eye syndrome, depending on which area of the eye is affected. ‘Keratitis sicca’ is the term that refers to dryness or irritation around the cornea, while ‘keratoconjunctivitis sicca’ affects both the cornea and conjunctiva.
Dry eye syndrome isn’t usually serious, but it can be irritating. There are a number of symptoms that may indicate you have dry eye syndrome, and some lifestyle factors could increase your risk of developing the condition. By understanding these, you may be able to prevent dry eyes.
How does dry eye syndrome affect you?
If you have dry eyes, it can range from subtle but constant eye irritation to significant inflammation. With this in mind, you might experience minor symptoms or symptoms that affect your day-to-day life.
Symptoms can include general occurrences like itching or fatigued eyes, and you may also experience a burning sensation, red eyes, photophobia or blurred vision. If you notice any changes to your vision, including a sudden loss of sight, you should seek an urgent appointment with your optician.
You could be at higher risk of developing dry eye syndrome, depending on a number of factors. Using the computer has often been linked to having dry eyes, as prolonged work on a computer can result in intense focusing and less blinking. Those who wear contact lenses may also have a bigger chance of suffering from dry eyes.
Dry eye syndrome appears to be more common in those aged over 50, as a natural part of the ageing process. However, there are some factors associated with lifestyle choices that may affect dry eye syndrome. Smoking and diet may contribute, as well as indoor environments such as air conditioning and heating can dry your eyes.
How to treat dry eye syndrome
There are some treatments available that can help to relieve the symptoms of dry eyes. Use of artificial tears and other ocular lubricants can help reduce symptoms. However, many of these conventional methods often only provide short-term relief.
More advanced solutions are now becoming readily available, which have been proven to deliver rapid improvement. Intense regulated pulsed light technology (IRPL) now means new devices can emit light pulses around the eye to stimulate the nerves and encourage tears naturally, restoring normal functionality.
TearStim is an example of such a device, and works in just 3 sessions to deliver results that last between 6 months and 3 years. It is available in selected opticians through the UK.