The eye is your window to the world and is responsible for supplying you with the majority of information around you. So what happens when that window becomes compromised and using it causes discomfort and there is a risk of it becoming unusable?
Dry eye by definition is a multi-factorial disease of the tears and ocular surface. It is more common in women, contact lens wearers, those with glaucoma and persons living a modern lifestyle and use digital devices. During the day a person may experience burning, watering eyes, a foreign body sensation, red eyes and have fluctuating vision.
Tears are made up of three main components and when the balance is off this spells disaster. The tears help oxygen to reach the cornea, defend the eye against bacteria and lubricate the eye surface. Our eyelid margins are lined with biofilm that is populated with bacteria. These bacteria can produce toxins that lead to inflammation along the eye lid margin. Over decades this inflammation affects the ocular surface and leads to long term changes with the eye lash follicles being the first to be affected and later the eye lid glands become blocked and malfunction. In most cases of dry eye it is the lipid layer that is in short supply due to this meibomian gland disorder (MGD). MGD cannot be cured, it is managed like gum disease, with persons being made to feel more comfortable. Left untreated for a long time there is risk of dry spots becoming scars leading to blindness.
Treatments range depending on the severity of the condition and are aimed at enhancing the system Mother Nature has made. Options may include artificial tears, light therapy, therapeutic expression of the glands or punctal plugs. Supportive therapy can be warm compresses, lid scrubs topical medication for inflammation and fish oil supplements as well as sleep goggles. Proper blinking is critical to maintaining the health of the meibomian glands and ocular surface. Dry eye symptoms are progressive in nature so the sooner treatment is started the better the long term outcome.
Treatment ranges depending on the severity of the condition and are aimed at enhancing the system Mother Nature has made. Lid hygiene has been used for years, but it requires good patient compliance in order to be even a little bit effective. Antibiotics can only temporarily reduce inflammation. Some clinicians are using a special eye lid exfoliation procedure that effectively cleans the lid which gives a better chance at treating dry eye. Other options include artificial tears and eye gels, light therapy, therapeutic expression of the glands and punctal plugs. At home supportive therapy can be warm compresses, lid scrubs topical medication for inflammation as well as sleep goggles. Proper blinking is critical to maintaining the health of the meibomian glands and ocular surface. Dry eye symptoms are progressive in nature so the sooner treatment is started the better the long term outcome.
Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of eye conditions. Optometrist Carmen Marshall has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but makes no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult an optometrist for a more accurate diagnosis and treatment of eye conditions. Views expressed here are personal and do not in any way, shape or form represent the views of organizations that Carmen Marshall works for or is associated with, including ZimShoppingMalls.
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Carmen Marshall is an Optometrist who is committed to ongoing professional education, implementing the latest technology, and providing the most current and effective care to her patients. She earned a B.Optom at the then RAU (now UJ) and also holds a diploma in Schools Vision and has attended certified courses on Diabetic Optometry and various Contact Lens Courses. She has international experience and works to a very high standard. She is the owner of a private optometry practice in Harare.