Dry eye disease affects a great many people in the United States. Although those who live in sunny, dry climates are more prone to feeling eye dryness, dry eye disease can occur for people living in any climate.
Dry eye can be caused by two basic problems: inadequate tear quantity or poor tear quality. Evaporative dry eye is caused by poor tear quality. Tears are made of a water layer, an oil layer, and a mucus layer. If the oil layer is of the wrong composition, then the tears evaporate quickly and may leave behind a dry mucus sheet on the cornea. This naturally makes the eye feel extremely dry and even ‘sticky’. Correcting dry eye may involve using simple over-the-counter preservative-free artificial tears. For patients who want a more permanent solution to dry eye, punctal plugs, which are silicone plugs based in the tear ‘drain’ at the bottom of the eye, can be inserted to retain a greater tear reservoir. Dietary supplements like fish oils can help fix evaporative dry eye, and a drug called Restasis may help increase tear production.
Dry eye is a somewhat complicated condition wherein the symptoms mimic many other eye conditions, e.g. seasonal ocular allergies. To know with certitude if you have this condition or not, have a consultation with a board-certified ophthalmologist like Julius Shulman of Eastside Eye Associates.