Severe Dry Eyes: Causes and Treatments
Severe dry eyes is a common condition caused by insufficient lubrication on the surface of the eye. Patients with dry eyes often experience itching or burning eyes, blurred vision, and the feeling of “grit” in the eye. Dry eyes is especially common in older adults, and severe cases may lead to permanent eye damage.
Normally, the eye produces tears that lubricate the eye’s surface. Without lubrication, the eye cannot function normally, resulting in eye irritation and inflammation. Tears have other jobs as well, like removing foreign matter from the eye and reducing infection risk.
Tears are produced by several glands near the eye, and then drain into the back of the nose. Tears consist of three layers: water, oil, and mucus, all three of which are necessary for tears to function properly. If the eye doesn’t produce enough tears, or if tears don’t contain the correct components, dry eyes can result.
Age: Older adults more commonly experience dry eyes than younger people.
Sex: Women more commonly experience dry eyes than men.
Diet: Eating a diet low in vitamin A can lead to dry eyes.
Contact Lenses: Contacts can irritate the eyes, leading to inflammation and dry eye.
There are several ways to treat try eyes, ranging from over-the-counter medications to medical procedures. Some common solutions include:
Artificial tears: for mild cases of dry eyes, your doctor may recommend the use of lubricating eye drops. Many brands are available without a prescription, although note different brands can vary in quality. Consult your eye doctor about which brand to use.
Prescription Eyedrops: for more severe cases of dry eyes, your doctor may recommend prescription eyedrops. These eyedrops contain medication that reduces inflammation within the eye.
Punctal plugs: in some cases, doctors may place a small plug in the drainage canal of the eye, causing tears to remain on the eye for longer.
Meibomian Gland Expression: many cases of dry eye are caused by inadequate oil (or meibomian) in the tears, causing tears to evaporate too quickly. A doctor may apply pressure to clogged meibomian glands, opening them up and allowing them to secrete oil properly.