Don’t Cry Over Dry Eyes: Treatments for Your Tear Layers

It amazes me how important tears are to our comfort and vision. While sobbing may exhaust you physically and emotionally, you may be interested to know that the tears in our eyes are very complex and an essential part to the health of your vision. Depending on which component is deficient, your symptoms will affect your treatment.

The eye’s tear film anatomy has three main layers. The oily top layer keeps tears from evaporating too quickly. The middle aqueous (watery) layer moisturizes the cornea and carries enzymes to fight infections and allergens. The bottom mucin layer helps the tears to “stick” to the cornea as well as moisturize it. So, for instance, if a person does not have enough of the oily top layer then the aqueous layer will evaporate too quickly, in turn, the eye will produce more tears – almost as if you are crying- yet this is considered dry eyes. Now let’s say there is not enough of the middle layer. This will cause a gritty, sandy feeling.

No matter which layer is deficient, one of the first symptoms often is intermittent blurred vision. While there are actual tests that can detect dry eyes, diagnosis can be made from the patient’s history and a thorough eye examination. Symptoms can include blurred vision, burning, tearing, sandiness, grittiness and light sensitivity. Many factors can cause dry eyes including smoking, dry/dusty environments, medications, hormones, age and systemic diseases.

Treatment starts with changing environmental factors that can exasperate the dryness.  Changes such as smoking cessation or adding a humidifier can help significantly. Over-the-counter eye drops, called artificial tears, are often the first option. There are many over-the-counter drops so ask your Antietam Eye team what type is best for your eyes because different types help in different ways. Also, Omega-3 supplements have long been shown to improve dry eyes. However, if you are starting to use the over-the-counter drops more than four times a day, then more advanced treatments may be needed. Cyclosporine eye drops or punctual plugs may be better options. Cyclosporine drops help your eye to actually produce more natural tears while punctual plugs keep your natural tears around longer.

While dry eyes rarely cause blindness, it can be very uncomfortable and cause difficulty during daily activities. Seeking treatments before symptoms become severe is the best method for decreasing the discomfort of dry eyes.

Antietam Eye

Healthy Eyes That Last a Lifetime



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