Dry eye results from inadequate lubrication of the anterior surface of the eye. This causes symptoms such as stinging, burning, redness, foreign body sensation, mucus discharge, or visual blurring. One of the most common symptoms of dry eye is excessive watering. Intuitively, this does not make sense given that “watery” eyes should not be dry. It is possible because we need the three main components of our tears to be in a defined composition to ensure the anterior surface of our eye is well hydrated and lubricated. These components include mucus, oil, and water. When these are in normal balance, they ensure tears not only “wet” our eye but are distributed evenly, and resist evaporation.
Treatment for dry eyes include: eyelid hygiene, artificial teardrops, Restasis, and punctual plugs. Eyelid hygiene is important as it allows the oil glands of our eyelids to function at their full capacity. You can read more about this in the blepharitis section.
Another important therapy is artificial teardrops. They act to replace a deficiency of our normal lubricating tears. There are numerous formulations of artificial tears that can be purchased at your local pharmacy. They are commonly used four times a day but may be used as frequently as every hour. Sometimes your doctor may recommend a thicker form of the tears that act to keep eyes well lubricated overnight.
Restasis is an anti-inflammatory medication which acts to increase tear production by decreasing inflammation. Punctal plugs are soft silicone plugs which are placed within the tear drains within our eyelids. Plugs act to increase tear availability by decreasing tear outflow (imagine placing a dam across the river). This procedure is painless and normally takes only a few minutes to complete in the clinic.