Dry eye syndrome

3. October 2014

People suffering from dry eye syndrome come to see their eye specialists with itchy, scratchy, red or watering eyes. Recent research confirms that ca 18% of women and 11% of men suffer from dry eye syndrome at some point in their lives and that the likelihood of the syndrome increases with age.

Two doctors from the Eye Clinic of East-Tallinn Central Hospital, Reili Rebane and Kristel Harak, talk about the physiology of the eye, as it makes dry eye syndrome easier to understand. The normal functioning of the eye depends on a system that consists of the lacrimal glands, the surface of the eye (the mucosa), the cornea, the sebaceous glands, the lids and nerve endings. All of the components of this unit are necessary to guarantee the correct composition and function of tears and they all play a role in keeping the surface of the eye moist and fed. They also offer protection against microbes, preserve the transparency of the cornea and the population of stem cells, and guarantee the appearance of a quality image on the retina. In the case of dry eye, a problem occurs in this system: tears can only perform their function if there are enough of them and if their composition is balanced.

Side-effects of certain drugs

It often happens that if there are not enough tears or their quality is not good enough, people with dry eye syndrome start suffering from eye infections, or their visual acuity fluctuates.

Ophthalmologists say that the flow of tears can often increase as a result of irritation caused by infection. “Patients then complain that their eyes are constantly watering and sore,” say the doctors from East-Tallinn Central Hospital.

Rebane and Harak add that dry eye syndrome basically has two causes: decreased generation of tears; or increased vaporisation of tears. It is good to know that this syndrome can also occur due to allergies, the preservatives in eye drops, the use of contact lenses and the use of certain drugs. It is known that some heart and blood pressure drugs reduce the generation of tears, and some antidepressants have the same effect. Dry eye syndrome can also be caused by dry air, air conditioners in cars and offices and working for a long time, for example with computers.

Lubricating drops can be used to alleviate dry eye syndrome and preservative-free artificial tears should also be used. Rebane and Harak say that patients often wonder why they are advised to use eye surface lubricants when their eyes are already watering – it seems as though they are being asked to add even more water to their eyes. “In fact, it helps break the chain of infection and restore balance,” the doctors explain.


Source: Õhtuleht