Chronic dry eye is a condition that is more than just an occasional feeling of dryness in the eyes. It's a persistent issue that can cause significant discomfort and even impact vision if left untreated.This condition can affect anyone, but it's more common among older adults.
There are numerous causes and symptoms of chronic dry eye. This condition can be triggered by a variety of factors, from aging and certain medical conditions to environmental influences.
Common causes include the natural aging process, side effects from medications like antihistamines, medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and thyroid problems, and environmental factors like wind, dry air, and smoke. It can also be caused by prolonged screen time, which reduces blinking and thus tear production.
Symptoms of chronic dry eye can vary from person to person. They often include a stinging, burning, or scratchy sensation in the eyes, sensitivity to light, redness and inflammation, blurred vision, and a feeling of having something in the eyes. In some cases, ironically, chronic dry eye can cause watery eyes, due to the eye's response to the irritation with excessive tear production.
One of the most common causes of chronic dry eye is a condition known as meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD). The meibomian glands are tiny oil glands located in the eyelids that help to keep the eyes lubricated. When these glands don't function properly, it can lead to a reduction in the quality and quantity of the oils in the tears, resulting in dry eyes.
MGD is a leading cause of evaporative dry eye, a type of chronic dry eye where the tears evaporate too quickly due to a lack of proper oil content. When the tear film's oil layer is compromised, it can lead to faster tear evaporation and, ultimately, dry eye symptoms.
Chronic dry eye treatments have focused on relieving symptoms and improving comfort. These treatments typically include over-the-counter artificial tear solutions, prescription eye drops, warm compresses, and eyelid cleaning.
Artificial tears can provide temporary relief from dry eye symptoms, but they don't address the underlying cause. Prescription eye drops can help increase tear production or reduce inflammation. Warm compresses and eyelid cleaning can help manage conditions like MGD that contribute to dry eyes.
In recent years, advanced treatments for chronic dry eye have emerged, offering new hope for those suffering from this condition. These treatments aim to address the root cause of the problem rather than just alleviating the symptoms.
One such advanced treatment is Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) therapy. Originally developed for dermatology applications, IPL is now being used to treat MGD and chronic dry eye. It works by applying pulses of light to the eyelid area, which helps to break up blockages in the meibomian glands and restore normal function.
Another advanced treatment is LipiFlow, a thermal pulsation system that applies controlled heat and pressure to the eyelids to unblock the meibomian glands. This treatment can provide long-term relief from dry eye symptoms.
If you're experiencing persistent dry eye symptoms, it's important to consult an optometrist. These symptoms should not be ignored as they can indicate a more serious underlying condition and may lead to complications if left untreated.
It's particularly important to seek professional help if your symptoms persist despite the use of over-the-counter remedies, or if they're interfering with your daily activities. An optometrist can provide a thorough evaluation and a personalized treatment plan to address your specific needs.
Chronic dry eye is a common but often misunderstood condition. While traditional treatments can provide temporary relief, advanced treatments offer new hope for long-term management. Optometrists play a key role in diagnosing and treating this condition, and should be consulted if you're experiencing persistent dry eye symptoms.
For more information on advanced treatments for chronic dry eye, contact Inland Family Optometry at our office in Chino, California. Call (909) 345-9809 to discuss dry eye treatments or schedule an appointment today.