Dry eye is one of the most frequently presented symptoms to eye care professionals: For some, it’s an occasional occurrence, but for many it’s a chronic condition.
In fact, an estimated 16 million Americans are diagnosed with chronic dry eye, or dry eye disease (DED)–and it’s believed that many more suffer undiagnosed.
So, what is DED and what causes it? Today, we’ll cover this topic along with some of the treatment options you can seek to find dry eye relief.
The 2 Main Causes for Dry Eye Disorder (DED)
People suffering from DED usually exhibit symptoms for one of two reasons:
- they do not produce enough tears, or
- their tears are evaporating too rapidly.
Reduced tear production is commonly attributed to a number of external factors, including:
- other medical conditions (including rheumatoid arthritis and lupus)
- use of contact lenses
- corrective vision surgery
For these individuals, the sheer quantity of tears being produced by their tear glands is diminished.
For those whose tears are evaporating too rapidly, however, the root cause has more to do with the quality of tears being produced.
Individuals with poor tear quality are generally unable to produce a sufficient amount of meibum, an oily secretion which mixes with tears and mucus to create a healthy and hydrated ocular surface.
The glands which produce this substance are called meibomian glands. Dozens are located in the eyelids but they can become blocked, which prevents them from secreting meibum: When this happens, the tear composition is disrupted and tears evaporate far more rapidly.
This condition is known as meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD).
Some common causes of MGD include:
- Medications that impact oil production (including acne medications and hormone therapies)
- Bacterial infections
- Use of contact lenses
- Damage, inflammation, or injury to the eyelids
- Allergic reactions (ie: allergic conjunctivitis)
A common contributing factor to both impaired tear quality and quantity is Sjögren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease in which one’s immune system attacks healthy cells in the salivary and tear glands.
The disorder is commonly characterized by dry eyes and dry mouth and is most prevalent in women, who are up to “10 times more likely” to receive the diagnosis, according to Johns Hopkins. It is also closely linked to other health conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis.
Those who have been diagnosed with Sjögren’s syndrome and are suffering from chronic dry eye should seek counsel from their eye care professional to determine an appropriate treatment plan.
Causes and symptoms of DED tend to have a significant amount of overlap.
As an example, we can look at blepharitis (also known as eyelid inflammation): while blepharitis is commonly a cause for dry eye symptoms, it can also present as a symptom of another underlying issue.
Because of the overlap between dry eye causes and effects, it’s important to discuss symptoms with an eye care professional who can help you identify and treat the true source of your eye irritation.
Effects of Dry Eye
Many are of the impression that dry eyes are mildly irritating but aren’t a serious problem.
While this may be true for occasional instances of dry eye, sufferers of chronic dry eye can endure some long-term secondary effects if left untreated.
Some of the potential long-term effects of DED include:
- Eye inflammation
- Blurred vision
- Increased risk of eye infection
- Damage to the surface of the eye
- Corneal ulcers
- In severe cases, permanent vision impairment
How to Treat Chronic Dry Eye
Finding relief for your dry eye symptoms can vary on a case-by-case basis. Some find marked improvement in their symptoms with simple lifestyle changes, such as using a humidifier in arid environments, or incorporating more omega-3 fatty acids into their diet.
For others, however, DED is particularly difficult to treat, forcing many to rely heavily on eye drops for temporary symptom relief.
But Regener-Eyes offers more than that. Unlike other eye drops, Regener-Eyes is a regenerative biologic, designed to help.
Regner-Eyes is trusted by many eye care professionals to bring long-lasting relief to sufferers of chronic dry eye.
Ask your ECP about Regener-Eyes, and find out more about how you can harness the power of a biologic in the ease of an eye drop.