Why do We Get Dry Eyes?
Our eyes constantly produce a lubrication called tears. Tears are not only important in lubricating (like oil) the eyes to allow for smooth blinking, but also, help remove foreign debris from the eye and provide important nutriments to the eye. The tears are made up of two major components: a watery component called aqueous and sandwiched between two lubricating layers (mucin and lipid layers).
The lubricating component of the tears reduces surface tension, which eliminates beading of the tears, and causes the tears to spread on the corneas (A drop of water on glass beads, spreading of the water results in dry spots, lubrication eliminates this problem). Normally tears are reflexively produced to maintain moisture of the eyes. Currently, the blink reflex to spread the tears is mediated by subliminal pain induced by dryness via the corneal nerves to the brain. The message is to produce tears. If corneal sensation is altered by lack of oxygen reducing the ability of the nerves to respond; LASIK surgery cutting the corneal nerves; contact lenses, wind or other irritants normal tearing is decreased.
If there are not enough tears a message is sent to the brain – produce more tears. Unfortunately, these tears are very watery, instead of lubricating the eye they dry the eye. The process is similar to spending too much time swimming in the ocean, the skin becomes dry. “Watery tears”, like water on your skin causes dryness. This results a new message to produce more tears. Once again, more tears are produced which dries the eyes further. This is why tearing (wet eyes) are usually the result of dry eyes.
Is There Anything That Makes Dry Eyes Worse?
What Can We Do About Dry Eyes?
Well if you have blepharitis or meimbomitis then we must eliminate this obstacle. Put a humidifier in your apartment and/or by your desk at work. Keep it on. Otherwise, we need to supplement your tears with artificial tears and/or nutritional supplements. Some brands are better than others. Patients who need to be maintained on long term use should use non-preserved artificial tears otherwise less expensive artificial tears may be used.
These drops can be used every once in while in mild cases, more frequently (four times a day in chronic cases) or one drop every hour in severe cases. If you have real dry eye and the eyes improve with the drops do not stop just because you feel better. If you have a real dry eye try Genteal Gel, it stings on insertion and will blur your vision for a minute or two, but lubricates for a longer time. Lacrilube is also useful just before going to sleep. Some patients do not close their eyes when they sleep. If your eyes don’t close completely during sleep, try to tape one eye shut at night. Alternate the taping sequence. In extreme cases tape both eyes.
Nutritional supplements like HydroEye can also help relieve dry eye symptoms. HydroEye is available in all of our offices and comes with a money-back guarantee.
I Hear that the FDA Just Approved a New Drop?
Most Americans are starved of Omega-3 fatty acids which are essential for tear production. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in salmon, walnuts, mackerel, sardines and herring. On the other hand we eat too much Omega-6 fatty acids which are found in milk, butter, ice cream, cow meat, fried foods, cookies, cakes, and pizza. The bad Omega a-6 fatty acids create inflammation throughout the body including blepharitis and meibomitis of the eye.
What If the Drops Don’t Provide Enough Lubrication?
The tears are made and drained. The tears are drained by the lacrimal duct into your nose and then into your throat. That is why you can taste your eye drops. To preserve your tears a small little plug can be placed in your drain (the tear duct), like putting the plug into the sink. This keeps most of your tears from draining out. The procedure is simple, painless and performed right in the office. Lastly, if these methods do not work swim goggles can be worn with a few drop of fluid placed inside to increase the humidity.