Ophthalmology

Dry Eye Syndrome

Introduction to Dry Eye Syndrome

Dry eye syndrome (DES), also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), is a pathological dryness of the eyes characterised by the eyes’ inability to keep adequately moistened.

Written by Doctify Team 27/04/2020

What is Dry Eye Syndrome?

Dry eye syndrome (DES), also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), is a pathological dryness of the eyes characterised by the eyes’ inability to keep adequately moistened. This can lead to irritation, inflammation, and can make your eyes more susceptible to other conditions as a result.

What causes Dry Eye Syndrome?

Tears are not only a feature when you experience extremes of emotions such as crying with joy or sorrow, but are an integral component in the mechanism protecting your eye from irritation, infection, dryness and foreign particles. There is a constant layer of moisture composed of this tear solution that protects your eye from exposure to the environment. Dry eye syndrome is caused by anything that impairs this tear film from being adequately maintained.

Hormonal changes such as menopause or taking the contraceptive pill, age, certain medications and irritating contact lenses may all cause increase the chances of developing dry eye syndrome. Dry eyes are also a feature in many medical conditions affecting the eye and its associated glands such as conjunctivitis and dermatitis. It can also be caused by something as simple as dust, wind or altitude which can all cause the tear film to evaporate faster than the body can maintain it.

What are the symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome?

While the symptoms are sometimes mild and the condition can be irritating at worst, it can lead to more severe complications. Your eyes may become bloodshot and your vision impaired. Importantly your vision may improve temporarily if you blink rapidly which may help with reaching a diagnosis. People commonly experience irritation and soreness that isn’t as severe immediately upon waking but becomes gradually more painful throughout the day as you leave your eyes open for prolonged periods of time. Conversely you may experience some relief after naps or in the shower where your eyes are exposed to moisture.

Severe cases are also characterised by a feeling of pressure behind or in front of the eye, intense, sharp pain and the constant sensation that something is under your eyelids. If left untreated these symptoms can cause more permanent damage to the eyes and they should be consulted upon once discovered.

How is Dry Eye Syndrome treated?

Treatment is dependent on exactly which component of the tear-production process is impaired and an immediate course of action is to identify where there are identifiable changes that can be made, such as alternative medications or the treatment of an underlying condition. Additionally, making sensible changes to your environment such as wearing appropriate eye protection are looked into.

Eye drops may be prescribed, and the exact composition of the solution will depend on the cause of the dry eye syndrome in order to compensate for the missing component.

The most severe cases may require surgical intervention to block the punctum, the point in the corner of the eye where tears drain, thereby reducing the rate at which the tear film needs to be maintained. In extremely rare cases a portion of a salivary gland can be transplanted to under your eyelids, whereby the saliva can function in a similar manner to tears and maintain the tear film.

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