Dry eyes are a common problem that arises from the lack of proper lubrication of the eyes. It usually develops when the eyes don’t make enough tears or the tears evaporate from the eye quickly. To find out more about dry eyes, the risk factors, and the treatment, we are speaking to Dr. Sony Sherpa.
Dr. Sony, thank you for taking the time to talk to us. I will get started right away with the first question, what exactly is meant by dry eyes?
Thank you for having me. Dry eyes are often a chronic problem and it basically means that the eyes do not have any moisture in them. The proper functioning of the eyes and their protection from environmental factors are dependant on the proper lubrication of the organ. This lubrication is usually done by tears. However, sometimes your eyes aren’t making enough tears or they are evaporating from the eyes, resulting in a lack of lubrication and then, dry eyes.
Why would our eyes not produce enough tears? Is it due to diet or certain medical conditions?
There is a wide range of causes for dry eyes and while some causes are benign and easily manageable, there are some that are the reason for concern. Most commonly, excessive computer use, contact lenses, smoking, and wearing a mask cause dry eyes. In these cases, there is no need for concern as it’s just dryness in response to these triggers. Aging and menopause are other common reasons for dry eyes that are not a cause for concern.
What are some of the more serious causes of dry eyes?
Dry eyes can also occur as a result of allergies and while it is not a serious issue, it requires treatment and avoidance of triggers completely. There are certain medical disorders of autoimmune origin such as Sjogren’s Syndrome that causes dry eyes. It also causes a dry mouth and needs lifelong medications to manage the symptoms. Some medications such as antihypertensives and antihistamines also cause dry eyes that, if severe enough, will require a change in medications. Eyelid disorders that don’t let your eyelids close completely also allow tears to evaporate quickly meaning that there are going to be dry eyes.
It is believed that LASIK eye surgery for the correction of vision problems can also cause dry eyes. Is it true and if so, should people refrain from undergoing this procedure at all?
Yes, I was coming to it. LASIK surgery can cause dry eyes and it is one of the most common side effects of the procedure. However, it is not a reason to not undergo the procedure as this dry eyes side effect is temporary. The longest I have seen it last after a LASIK procedure is 6 months, and it is intermittent in nature. It is a side effect that will fade away and in my expert opinion, the risk of developing dry eyes does not outweigh the benefits of the procedure. People shouldn’t be scared of undergoing LASIK because of dry eyes.
And what happens if someone already has chronic dry eyes prior to LASIK surgery?
In that case, they will most likely be treated for dry eyes before LASIK surgery as one of the key requirements for anyone to be eligible for the LASIK surgery is to be healthy and not have any eye disorders apart from the visions disorders that are treated with this surgery. After dry eyes have been treated, the person would be able to undergo LASIK surgery.
What about other vision correction or eye surgeries? Can they cause dry eyes?
Dry eyes are a very common side effect of most surgeries of the eye. However, it is a temporary side effect that can be easily managed using lubricating eye drops. It is not recommended to not undergo a necessary surgery just because of the potential risk of developing dry eyes. However, I would recommend patients speak to their surgeons about any fears they may have so the best results can be achieved.
Now that we know what causes dry eyes syndrome, how can one treat it? Any natural remedies that can help prevent and treat dry eyes?
The easiest way to prevent dry eyes due to regular habitual triggers is to just avoid the triggers. I often tell my patients to take regular breaks from the computer or any screen, blink more often, and wear good quality sunglasses when out in the sun to help manage dry eyes caused by environmental factors. Cleaning eyelids thoroughly and removing the makeup properly is another way to prevent dry eyes as most of the pollution and makeup from the day can make the eyes very dry. Moreover, they may also cause inflammation of the eyes.
A warm compress is also beneficial in stimulating lubrication of the eye and is often recommended to people with dry eyes. Another way to treat dry eyes not related to a syndrome is to get over-the-counter artificial tear drops to lubricate the eye. However, if there are other symptoms present with the dry eye along with a lack of a clear trigger, you should go see your ophthalmologist in order to find out more about your dry eyes and potential treatment.
Are there any medications to treat dry eyes and manage their symptoms?
Yes, there are different types of eye drops depending on the specific cause. Eye drops may contain anti-inflammatory agents or steroids to manage the inflammation of the eye and such drops are often prescribed in the presence of a syndrome that’s causing dry eyes. Sometimes, based on severity, a device called a punctual plug may be placed to prevent the evaporation of tears. Or meibomian gland may be expressed to release more oils as it is one of the causes of dry eyes. Treatment really varies based on the cause.
Thank you so much for enlightening us on the topic. We really appreciate it.
You are welcome, I am happy to help spread awareness about this condition.