Resident Consultant Ophthalmologist, Hospital Fatimah Ipoh

Dry Eyes

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Dr. S.S. Gill

In our continuing series on Eye Health, Consultant Ophthalmologist Dr. S.S. Gill talks to us about dry eyes.

Dry eyes is a condition due to the reduction in the quantity or altered quality of the tears. Tears are necessary for the lubrication of our eyes and to wash away particles which can cause infection. You can imagine the eyes to be like “a fish without water” when they lack tears!

If you have dry eyes, you may feel a burning, stinging sensation. You may also experience tired eyes after reading, even for short periods of time. If you wear contact lenses, they may feel uncomfortable or scratchy to the eyes. It is estimated that up to 15% of adults suffer from Dry Eye Syndrome and that this figure continues to rise.

What Causes Dry Eye?

Dry Eye Syndrome is most common in adults aged 40 and older. As you age, your eye’s tear glands produce less of this fluid, making your tear film break. This causes most dry eye sufferers to feel painful eye irritation and experience vision loss.

Causes of Dry Eye include:

* Aging or menopause.
* Constant exposure to air-conditioners, wind and sun.
* Smoking or second-hand smoke exposure.
* Previous eye surgery such as Lasik.
* Eye injury, facial paralysis, poor lid closure.
* Certain medications like antihistamines.

Why are Tears Important?

Tears have 3 basic functions. Firstly, they bathe and protect our eyes. Secondly, they also contain proteins and nutrients which provide nourishment to the eye. Thirdly, tears help refract light to keep vision nice and sharp.

Tears are not just simple watery fluid but are actually comprised of 3 layers – the FATTY (lipid) layer, WATERY (aqueous) layer, and the MUCIN layer.

The outer FATTY layer works by keeping our tears from evaporating or drying-up too soon. This layer is produced by our eyelid glands, so if you have unhealthy eyelids, a defective fatty layer would result. In this condition, tears could dry up very fast.

The middle AQUEOUS layer is the main WATERY part of your tears, while the inner MUCIN layer is the “glue” layer needed to keep the whole tear film well spread on the eye surface.

A defect in any one of these 3 layers of the tear film will cause inadequate or poor quality tears.

If you have Dry Eyes, you may try the following:

  • Use preservative-free artificial tears, available as either drops or ointment.
  • Don’t smoke. Avoid second-hand smoke, direct wind, and air conditioning.
  • Use a humidifier, especially if you are constantly in an air-conditioned room.
  • Purposefully blink more often and rest your eyes when you feel strained.

Severe dry eyes may result in eye redness and pain. Some may even experience flaking, discharge, or a lesion on the eye. If after trying the above self-care steps and your dry eyes do not improve within a few days, see your eye-care practitioner.

For more information on Eye Health, contact Gill Eye Specialist Centre at 05-5455582, email: gilleyecentre@dr.com or visit www.fatimah.com.my.