Dry Eye Center
About Dry Eye
Tears keep your eyes moist, lubricate the surface of the, and guard against infection. They also wash away allergens and protect the eye. Dry eye syndrome (DES) is a common disorder of the tear film. DES often occurs in people who are otherwise healthy. It is more common with older age, especially those older than 40 years of age, because you produce tears that are less in quantity or quality or both with aging. The estimated number of people affected ranges from 25-30 million in the United States. DES can affect any race and is more common in women than in men.
The tear film on your eyes actually consists of the following three major components: lipid, aqueous, and mucin.
The lipid component is produced by meibomian glands in both the upper and lower eyelids and helps keep tears from evaporating too fast. With blepharitis or meibomian gland dysfunction, the tears dry up quickly and excess tearing out of reflex may paradoxically happen as your eye tries to compensate.
The aqueous component is the watery part produced by lacrimal glands (or the tear glands) that lubricates and nourishes the entire outer surface of the eye including the cornea (the clear, central part of the eye) and the conjunctiva (the white part of the eye). Many inflammatory medical diseases and medications cause reduction in the amount of tears, resulting in dry eyes.
The mucin component is the sticky part of the tears that helps adhere and spread the watery part of the tears across the entire surface of the eye. It is produced by a specific group of tissue consists of goblet cells to also trap and wrap up foreign pathogens or debries so they do not damage the surface of the eye.
DES is one of the most common reasons people visit an eye health professional. People often complain of irritated, gritty, scratchy, or burning eyes, a feeling of something in their eyes, excess watering (as a result of reflex tearing due to irritation), light sensitivity, and blurred vision. Advanced dry eyes may damage the front surface of the eye not just impairing vision but also predisposing to infection (e.g. corneal ulcer).
If you routinely experience any of the symptoms described above, you should seek an eye care specialist (ophthalmologist) for treatments. Like many diseases, although no cure exists for DES, many treatments are available to help relieve and control DES. You may only require a humidifier or occasional eyedrops, or you may require prescribed medications or even surgery to help treat DES.