Top

The dry eye explained by Dr. Alex Shortt

 

WHAT IS DRY EYE?

Dry eye is an extremely common condition and a major problem for patients. It basically is where the surface of the eye becomes damaged and inflamed because of if someone having either not enough tears or of having a change in the quality of the tears resulting in poor quality inflamed tears.

WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF DRY EYE?

Dry eye disease, or dry eye syndrome, is a term that's used to reflect a whole range of causes but that ultimately would result in the same thing which is inflammation and damage to the surface of the eye. Now the causes we tend to divide into a lack of tear production which is seen in things such as older patients who are after the menopause, patients who are on medications that reduce tear production or patients who are in an environment where there is an extreme drying effect. The other group of causes of dry eye disease are the conditions which result in a reduction in the tear quality, such as blepharitis, and conditions where there's inflammation of the surface of the eye such as in allergy or in dermatology diseases or the use of preservatives in eyedrops.

HOW TO RECOGNIZE DRY EYE?

Dry eye is diagnosed using a combination both of the symptoms and of the clinical signs than an ophthalmologist sees. So you really do need to see an ophthalmologist if you think you have dry eye disease. The symptoms of dry eye are irritation, dryness, or soreness of the eyes, excessive blinking, sometimes itching in the eyes and an appearance of the eyes just being red. The signs that your ophthalmologist will see are the signs of damage on the surface of the eye and of a lack of tears or of poor quality tears, and of course your ophthalmologist will need to examine carefully for signs of inflammation in the surface of the eye.

WHAT PRECAUTIONS SHOULD BE TAKEN WHEN SUFFERING FROM DRY EYE?

If you think you have dry eye, it's very important you see an ophthalmologist to confirm the diagnosis and to get advice about the correct treatment.

There are really three steps to managing dry eye.

The first is to look at what could be triggering the dry eye. So if we find that someone is a contact lens wearer (the contact lenses wear is contributing to the dry eye), this is a factor we need to look at. Other people work in very air-conditioned environments with very dry air, and that's also something that may need to be corrected in order to treat dry eye.

The second way in which dry eye is treated is to address the inflammation and the damage on the surface of the eye that are characteristic of the condition. To do this, the first thing to do is to improve the quality and the quantity of the tears. We do this through treating any blepharitis using things such as Thealoz® Duo as a lubricant, Blephasol®, Blephaclean® or also Blephagel®. These are very effective at treating blepharitis on the edge of the eyelids.

Also the inflammation needs to be treated and the most effective way of treating inflammation in dry eye is to use anti-inflammatory drops. The most effective anti-inflammatory drops, especially in the short-term, are a gentle cortical steroid for the surface of the eye in a preservative-free format such as Softacort®.

WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE FOR SORE EYES IN THE MORNING AND AT NIGHT?

My tip for sore eyes in the morning or at nighttime is mainly that you need to assess whether or not you may have dry eye disease and especially blepharitis that could be triggering the dry eye disease. The way to do this is to document carefully your symptoms, what you're noticing, and whether or not there is any signs of inflammation such as red eyes and to go to your ophthalmologist and explain these symptoms to them. Your ophthalmologist will need to examine you for signs of damage to the surface of the eye for signs of inflammation on the surface of the eye. They will also need to assess both the quantity and the quality of your tears.