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Dry Eyes

Dry Eyes

Dry eye syndrome (keratoconjunctivitis sicca) or Dry eye, is a condition where the eyes do not make enough tears, or tears evaporate too quickly. Dry eye is a common cause of eye irritation.

Our eyes are covered by a thin layer of liquid, known as a tear film. Tears lubricate and protect our eyes against infection. Tears also aid sight by helping to stabilise vision. A person suffering from Dry eye does not have enough of the right kind of tears to keep the eye comfortable. This can happen if not enough tears are produced to keep the eye surface moist, or if the tears do not stay on the eyes long enough. Over time, the resulting dryness can damage the surface of the eyeball. There is no cure for Dry eye, but its symptoms can be alleviated.

Dry eye can occur at any age, but is more common in older people as smaller volumes of tears are produced. During the menopause, changes that occur in hormone levels may explain why older women are more susceptible to dry eye.

Other factors, which contribute to dry eye, include;
• The environment e.g. sun, wind, dry, hot blowing air and high altitude. The combination of a dry climate, and warm air conditioning can cause Dry eye in some people.
• Occupation. Constant reading, writing, or working with a computer, causes a person to blink less frequently, increasing the risks of Dry eye.
• Medicines e.g. antihistamines, beta-blockers, antidepressants and diuretics.
• Laser eye surgery. This may cause temporary Dry eye in some people.
• Contact lenses. Changing lenses or limiting use may resolve Dry eye.
• Illness. Some people develop Dry eyes as a symptom of disease. For example, Dry eyes may occur with rheumatoid arthritis, SLE (systemic lupus erythematous), and Sjogren's syndrome.

The symptoms of Dry eye may include:
• Feelings of dryness, grittiness, or soreness, in both your eyes, which worsens throughout the day
• Eye redness
• Watering eyes, particularly when you are exposed to wind
• Eyelids stuck together on waking.

Dry eye can produce complications that cause more severe symptoms such as deterioration of vision, extreme sensitivity to light and severe redness and eye pain. If you experience these symptoms, see your GP as soon as possible.

As with all medical conditions, consult your Doctor for an accurate diagnosis and treatment. Dry eye does not usually cause permanent damage, however complications arising from the condition could permanently affect your sight.

Dry eye can be a recurring condition. Treatment aims to manage the symptoms rather than cure the condition. If an underlying medical condition is causing Dry eye, your doctor will prescribe treatment for it. Most people with Dry eye also have blepharitis (inflammation of the rims of the eyelids). This can be managed by keeping the eyelids clean, and massaging any trapped material out of the glands in the rim of the eyelid.

Mild to moderate cases of Dry eye can normally be successfully managed with eye drops that contain 'tear substitutes' or 'artificial tears', a liquid that is designed to mimic the properties of tears.

In more severe cases your GP may recommend anti-inflammatory medicine and specialised eyewear. If the condition fails to respond to treatment, surgery may be required.

Some types of artificial tears contain preservatives such as benzalkonium hexachloride. Used for long periods, this preservative may damage the front of the eye (the cornea). Therefore, if you use artificial tears more than four times per day, long-term, it is best to use a preservative-free brand, which does not contain benzalkonium chloride.

Ask your MedAux Pharmacist for advice.
1. Your Pharmacist can provide you with tear supplements that add to your natural tears and provide a substitute coating to protect and nourish your eyes.
2. Preservative-free tear supplements are available for patients with corneal and conjunctival epithelium conditions and people who experience a reaction to the preservatives in the tear supplements.
3. Eye ointments, drops and gels may be used for severe cases of Dry eye. They are usually applied at bedtime as they may blur vision.
4. Dispose of all eye drops and ointments, which have been opened for one month regardless of how much has been used. The preservative in them may not protect against contamination for more than twenty-eight days.
5. Ask your Pharmacist about tear supplements in single-use vials. Each vial has enough lubricant to treat both eyes once, which means only what is needed is used.
6. Dry eye in menopause may be helped by hormone replacement therapy.
7. If Dry eye is being caused by the swimming, an eye lubricant is more appropriate than eye drops.
8. Sometimes Dry eye is attributed to a lack of Vitamin A. Your Pharmacist might suggest taking
Vitamin A.
9. Gently dab watering eyes with a clean tissue. Avoid roughly wiping or rubbing the eyes as this can damage the delicate tissue surrounding the eye.
10. If dryness persists, contact your Doctor or an ophthalmologist.

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