Dry eye syndrome

Dry eye syndrome is a chronic lack of lubrication on the surface of the eye, resulting in dry and uncomfortable eyes. It may occur at any age, but is more common in older people, menopausal women in particular. It may be caused by insufficient tear production or excessive tear evaporation. Excessive evaporation may be caused by insufficient blinking which usually occurs when one is concentrating, exposure to air conditioning, and lack of lipids.

The tear film (layer of tears covering the eye) consists of the innermost mucous layer, middle aqueous layer and the superficial lipid layer. It is the lipid layer that keep the tear film stable, so a lack of lipids, results in a tear film that evaporates too quickly.

Several treatment options are available, these include tear supplements in the form of eye drops and pills, and a procedure called punctum plugging, which involves inserting tiny silicone plugs in the puncta (tiny pipes that drain tears into the nose) to reduce tear drainage. Your optometrist will be able to advice on the best option for you, as factors such as contact lens wear, work environment and the severity of the condition must be considered.

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