What are dry eyes?
Dry eye syndrome, or simply dry eyes, is a common condition that happens when there is a problem with the watery tear film that normally keeps the eye wet and lubricated.
What is the tear film?
Your tears are spread across your eyes in the form of a watery film – the tear film. It is made up from three layers – the principal watery layer makes the central ‘filling’ of this sandwich, covered with a very thin outer layer of oil, and a thin inner layer of mucus.
The watery part is the lubrication. The mucus acts as a wetting agent to help the tear film spread easily across the eye. The outer oil layer acts as a kind of ‘cling film’, reducing evaporation of tears away from the eyes.
Who gets dry eye syndrome? What causes it?
Dry eye syndrome is very common and can affect anyone, but it becomes increasingly prevalent with age. Dry eyes affect about 20-35% of people, i.e. possibly as many as a third of older people. Women are affected more often than men, by approximately 50%.
Most dry eye is evaporative, i.e. caused by excess evaporation from the eyes, rather than the body not making enough tears. This knowledge is a fairly recent breakthrough in our understanding of dry eye syndrome, its assessment and treatment.
Common causes are:
- Ageing. You tend to make fewer tears as you get older. In particular, some women may notice dry eyes developing around the menopause
- Medication. Some medicines can cause or worsen dry eyes, including:
- ‘Water’ tablets (diuretics)
- Some antidepressants
- Some treatments for anxiety and psychological problems
- Beta-blockers (propranolol, atenolol)
- Some acne treatments
- Some eye drops used to treat other eye conditions
Laser vision treatment and dry eyes
It is very important that patients with very dry eyes do not have laser treatment. Make sure you see your surgeon prior to treatment and ensure that your eyes have sufficient lubrication to be a good candidate.
Mild dryness can be treated prior to surgery so that the patient is then suitable for LASIK, with very good results.
Treatment will increase dryness for 3-6 months, and lubricating drops will be needed during this period. This is the most common side effect, but which is temporary in good candidates. However if there is significant dryness pre-op and no therapy is used to improve the condition, treatment can worsen symptoms and which may not improve over time. It is therefore very important to see an expert specialist surgeon at a good centre, who will say No to surgery if it is not in your best interests.
Please call us on if you have any questions or would like to discuss vision correction in more detail.