One of the most common problems seen in the eye doctor's
office is dry eyes. As we age, the protective tear film on the surface
of the eye diminishes. This leaves the delicate tissues of the eye exposed
to the drying effects of air, wind, dust and the sun. It is not a problem
in making tears; to the contrary, many patients complain of wet eyes
and tearing with this malady. This is because the dryness produces a
reflex tearing in an effort to keep the eye well lubricated.In many
people the dryness is worse in the afternoon and evenings. Since we
blink less frequently when we read, reading can also aggravate the symptoms
of dry eyes. Sometimes environmental factors play a role as well.Dry
weather, either in the hot or cold temperatures robs the eye of needed
lubricants. Cigarette smoke, fumes, dust and airborne particles are
common irritants. In most patients this condition is NOT associated
with any systemic disease.Symptoms include burning, stinging, or a gritty
sensation which may come and go depending on many factors. Itching,
tearing, and light sensitivity may bother other patients. Occasionally
long strings of mucus can be stretched from a dry eye.
TREATMENT is helpful in most patients. We cannot cure this
condition, so treatment must be an ongoing project. Usually artificial
tears, available over the counter, soothe the eyes and give temporary
relief. The most commonly used ones are CELLUFRESH, AQUASITE, HYPOTEARS,
TEARS NATURAL, and REFRESH. The problem is that they only work for an
hour or two, at best,and must be repeated at frequent intervals. Ointments
last longer, but they blur vision and are most effective at night. The
best ointments are DURATEARS, HYPOTEARS, LACRILUBE, and REFRESH P.M.
The medicines WITHOUT preservatives are preferable to those with
preservatives. Newer methods of treatment which have an effect on seriously
dry eyes are soft contact lenses in combination with artificial tears.
Sometimes a slow release medicine under the lower lid is helpful as
well. Tear ducts, which carry tears and lubricants from the eye into
the nose, can be blocked temporarily or permanently. This procedure
increases the available tears in the eye, thus relieving the dry eye
condition. Humidifiers at home andwork can be helpful as well. Much
research is being done on this subject because it is such a common problem.
Time release artificial tears seem to hold the most promise, but details
of its use are still being worked out.