Dry eye disease ranges from mild to severe. Its symptoms can result in minor irritation, interfere with comfortable contact lens wear or cause more serious issues of decreased vision, inflammation and even scarring of the cornea if not treated.
Symptoms of Dry Eye Disease
Although symptoms vary based on the severity and type of dry eye disease, the most common symptoms are:
- Scratchy, gritty sensation.
- Increased light sensitivity.
- Blurred vision.
- Increased tearing (the body tries to compensate for the dryness by increasing tear production).
- Eyes feeling stuck shut upon waking in the morning.
Functions Of The Tear Layer
- The tear layer functions as part of the optical system of the eye and if there isn't a uniform thick tear layer across the corneal surface, it affects how the light rays bend and can result in blurred vision.
- The tear layer functions to keep the cornea, the front surface of the eye, wet at all times. If there is continual evaporation of the tear layer throughout the day to the point the corneal layer dries out, the cells will die and slough off. This is similar to dry chapped skin of the hands. If the top layer of cells on the cornea sloughs off, the nerve endings are exposed, which results a scratchy gritty feeling when blinking as the eyelid stimulates the nerve endings every time it passes over the cornea.
- The tear layer also functions to gather dust particles and allergens in the air and flush them out through the tear drainage system. It the tear layer is too thin or the tears evaporate too quickly the allergens trapped in the tear layer are then exposed to the cornea, which results in an allergic response from the ocular structures. So dry eye disease can exacerbate allergy symptoms such as red, itchy and watery eyes.
Treatment of Dry Eye Disease
There are different layers to the tear film and depending on which layer of the tear film is deficient, the treatment options vary. It is important to determine the type of dry eye disease one has in order to treat it successfully. Generally speaking lubricating drops by themselves are not enough to treat symptoms of dry eye.