Dry eye syndrome is among the most common eye conditions in the United States. What is dry eye syndrome? In healthy eyes, a thin layer of tears coats the outside surface of the eye and keeps it moist. Dry eye syndrome occurs when the eye doesn't make enough tears, or doesn't make effective tears, or the tears that it does make evaporate too quickly and leave the eye dry and vulnerable.
People with dry eyes often experience dryness, stickiness, and stinging or burning of their eyes. The eyes are often red and irritated. Sometimes the eyes water excessively in an effort to soothe the irritation, but these reflex tears are usually not adequate to fix the problem, and all they do is spill over the eyelid and run down the cheek.
The cause of dry eye syndrome is unknown, but the disease affects approximately 77 million Americans. The disease becomes more common as we age, and is particularly common in women over the age of 35.
Dry eye syndrome affects women two to three times more often than men. This is thought to be related to hormones. Male hormones (such as testosterone) seem to be good for the tear glands, and female hormones (particularly estrogen) seem to be bad for the tear glands. In a recent study, women who were on hormone replacement therapy after menopause had up to a 70% higher risk for developing dry eyes than women not using hormone replacement therapy.
One particular form of dry eye syndrome occurs in patients with SjÃ¶grenâ€™ syndrome. Patients with SjÃ¶grenâ€™ syndrome suffer from dry eyes and dry mouth, because their bodies mistakenly produce small molecules that attack their moisture-producing glands, in addition to causing other problems, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. Ninety percent of people with SjÃ¶grenâ€™ syndrome are women.
Dry eye syndrome is more than a nuisance. Left untreated, severe cases of dry eye syndrome can lead to problems such as inflammation, infection, and scarring of the eye surface.
Treatment options: If you have dry eye syndrome, there are numerous treatments available to help protect your eyes and your sight. For many dry eye sufferers, small changes in their daily habits can make the problem better, such as smoking cessation or making sure heating and air-conditioning ducts are aimed away from your face and eyes at home and at work. Diets high in omega-3 fatty acidsincluding fish, nuts, or supplementscan also improve dry eye symptoms. For others, tear replacement drops can help re-establish moisture to the eye. In addition, a new prescription medication called cyclosporin is now available. Marketed under the brand name RestasisÂ®, cyclosporin helps your tear glands produce more of your own natural tears.
Your doctor can help you develop a treatment plan that's right for you.
Call your doctor today at North Shore Eye Care.
Our staff will be more than happy to make an appointment for you, 631-265-8780.
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