Dry Eye Syndrome

Dry Eye Syndrome (DES), also known as Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS) in medical terminology, is a disorder related to the tear film in the eyes which keeps the vision clear and eyes comfortable. Tear film is made up of the three layers – Mucin or mucus, Aqueous and Lipids. Mucin layer is the innermost and the thinnest layer which helps in evenly spreading the overlying watery layer over the eye. Aqueous Layer is the thickest layer which helps in removing any foreign object from the eye and keeping the eye moist.The Layer of Lipids is a thin layer which helps in reducing the evaporation of the watery layer.

Defect or disorder in any of these layers of the Tear film leads to Dry Eye Syndrome. More women are affected by Dry Eye Syndrome than men.

Causes of the Dry Eye Syndrome:

Dry Eye Syndrome can be caused due to:

  1. Decreased Tear production: The decrease in tear production could be due to hormonal changes, age or various diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. The tear production could see a decline due to consumption of medicines like anti-depressants, oral contraceptives, antihistamines etc.
  2. Excessive Tear Evaporation: Excessive evaporation of tears may occur if the lipid layer is insufficient or if the eyelids cannot be closed or if there is a decrease in blinking leading to Dry Eye Syndrome.
  3. An abnormal production of mucus in the tear film may also lead to Dry Eye Syndrome as the tears will not spread over the eyes properly.
  4. If there is a dysfunction in meibomian gland, which is an oil gland that produces lipid layer, the watery tear layer will evaporate as it will not be covered by oil. If the eyelids or the eyelashes have an infection, the oil will be broken down by the bacteria.

Symptoms of the Dry Eye Syndrome:

Some of the symptoms of the Dry Eye Syndrome include burning sensation in the eyes, dryness, scratching, and redness in the eyes, irritation and pain. Sometimes Dry Eye Syndrome may lead to watery eyes because of the irritation in eyes. If left untreated, Dry Eye Syndrome may result in impairment of vision.

Diagnosis of the Dry Eye Syndrome:

Slit Lamp Examination is conducted to diagnose dry eyes and to check the extent of damage to the eye. Schirmer’s test is also used to determine how severe the condition of the eye is.

Treatment of the Dry Eye Syndrome:

  1. Immunosuppressants like ciclosporin or mild steroids can be used to suppress the inflammation in the eyes.
  2. Puncta, which drains tears into tear ducts, can be blocked with the help of Punctal plugs in order to stop tear drainage. It is beneficial for those people on whom other modes of treatment are not effective.
  3. Tarsorrhaphy is conducted on those who have severe symptoms of the Dry Eye Syndrome. Eyelids are sewn together partially in this surgery in order to reduce evaporation of tears.
  4. The incidence of Dry Eye Syndrome can be decreased in women by the consumption of fish as it has omega-3 fatty acids.
  5. Lubricant should be used to moisten the eyes for those who have mild and moderate symptoms of the Dry Eye Syndrome.
  6. Artificial tears can also be used for temporary treatment of the Dry Eye Syndrome since they moisten and lubricate the eyes.

Prevention of the Dry Eye Syndrome:

  1. Dust, smoke and air conditioning may aggravate the dryness in the eyes; so the person suffering from Dry Eyes should avoid going to such environments.
  2. Person affected from dry eyes should blink the eyes as much as possible, especially during long hours of working before the computer or reading.
  3. One should also avoid rubbing eyes as it may further lead to irritation in the eyes.
  4. It is advisable that those affected with dry eyes should use glasses while working oncomputer to protect the eyes.
  5. A humidifier should be used to moisten the dry air inside the house, especially in winter.