Tears help with vision, regular eye health
by Laura Young
Have you ever experienced burning, stinging, or watery eyes? Do your eyes ever look red and feel dry or irritated? Has your vision ever seems to blur out momentarily and then clear up when you blink? If you have experienced any one of these symptoms you may have dry eye syndrome. Dry eye syndrome is one of the most common conditions that I see on a day to day basis. It is a condition in which there are insufficient tears to lubricate and nourish the eye. Tears are crucial for eye health and for good vision; therefore, if a person has dry eye syndrome they may have visual changes as well as ocular discomfort.
There are actually three layers to the tear film. The outer most layer is an oily layer, the middle layer is made of water, and the inner most layer is made of a fine layer of mucus. The oily layer comes from tiny glands located in the upper and lower eye lids. With each blink a small amount of oil is released spreads over the top of the watery portion of the tear. The main purpose of this layer is to help keep the tears from quickly evaporating. The middle layer or water layer is the main layer and is used to lubricate the surface of the eye. The mucus or mucin layer is on the cornea (the clear surface on the front of the eye). This layer is present to smooth the surface of the cornea and to allow the water to attach itself more closely and evenly to the cornea. All these layers in the right consistency and amount help provide a stable tear film allowing for clear vision and nourishment to the eye.
With multiple layers to the tear film, dry eye can occur if any of these layers are not performing properly. Dry eye syndrome if often classified into one of two forms, insufficient tears or poor quality of tears. In the first form, the body does not produce enough of the watery layer and it cannot coat the eye properly. With poor quality of tears, the problem is with the oily layer or the mucin layer. The tears evaporate too quickly or the tears cannot spread evenly over the surface of the eye.
Many things can cause dry eye syndrome. Increasing age can have an effect on the eye’s ability to produce adequate tears or tears of the proper consistency. Women are more prone to dry eye symptoms due to hormonal changes and menopause. Some common medications that can lead to dry eye include: anti-histamines, oral contraceptives, anti-depressants, decongestants, and some blood pressure medications. Rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disease, and diabetes are some of the medical conditions that affect the tear film. People that have inflammation of their eyelids or flaking of their eyelids which can be common with rosacea are also prone to dry eye syndrome.
Environmental factors such as exposure to sun, dry, or windy climates can cause tear evaporation and lead to dry eye. Even people who look at a computer screen all day often develop dry eye symptoms at the end of the day due to insufficient blinks. Surgeries such as LASIK can also cause an increase in dry eye symptoms.
Dry eye syndrome is most often a chronic problem and varies in its severity. It can be treated in a variety of ways. The best way to find out if you have dry eye syndrome and to get some relief from those dry, irritated, or watery eyes is to schedule an appointment with an eye doctor today!
Dr. Laura Young is an optometrist at Premier Family Eye Care in Indian Trail.