What is Dry Eye?

What is Dry Eye?

Dry Eye Disease is a complex condition that has many causes and creates many symptoms. It affects people of all ages, women more than men, and people with certain health conditions. In many cases, Dry Eye Disease is under reported by patients to their medical professionals. Self treatment is very common using various OTC products usually without satisfying results.

Causes and Symptoms

What Causes Dry Eye?

  • Poor quality tears 
  • Partial blinking 
  • Contact lens wear
  • Various Rx & OTC medications
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Eye Surgery – Cataract/LASIK/PRK
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Dermatological diseases
  • Chemotherapy treatments
  • Prolonged screen time
  • C-PAP use
  • Being over age 50 
  • Eye makeup misuse
  • Eyelid mites
  • Incomplete eyelid closure during sleep 

Dry Eye Symptoms May Include: 

  • Chronic tearing  
  • Gritty & burning sensation 
  • Bloodshot appearance 
  • Reddened eyelids 
  • Eyelash flakes/crusts
  • Eyelash loss 
  • Eye rubbing/fingering
  • Light sensitivity
  • Contact lens problems
  • Eye pain upon awakening 
  • Soapy froth on eyelids
  • Excessive blinking    
  • Mucus strands
  • Frequent styes

Read more on our blog about what is causing your dry eyes and how to avoid making them worse.

Importance of Having Healthy Tears

It can not be overstated – the quality of tears is as important as the quantity of tears a person produces to lubricate their eyes. Human tears are made by 3 types of glands which produce mucins, water, and oils. Dry Eye Disease primarily develops over time when the natural homeostasis of these tear film components gets out of balance. Some patients become so miserable as it feels as though they have a cactus in their eyes – talk about agony!! 

In 86% of Dry Eye Disease cases, this tear film imbalance occurs because there is a dysfunction of the eyelid meibomian oil glands. This condition is known as MGD for meibomian gland dysfunction. These glands, about 60 per eye, are located within the undersides of the upper and lower eyelids. Their sole function is to produce and secrete healthy, clear, liquid oils (similar to olive oil) which coat the eyes to help prevent tear film evaporation. Over the years, these meibomian glands can atrophy causing the oils to become waxy and solidify thus plugging up these glands and blocking the oil secretions. When this happens, the tears lose this valuable liquid oil component of their chemistry resulting in a cascade of symptoms.

The longer comprehensive dry eye treatments are delayed, the more severe the condition becomes and the more difficult it is to treat.

Importance of Nutriceuticals

In most Dry Eye Disease cases, the prescribing of an Omega-3 nutriceutical is an important component of a patient’s dry eye treatment plan. Besides having anti-inflammatory benefits, an Omega-3 nutriceutical assists the eyelid meibomian glands in producing a healthier oil for improved tear film homeostasis. In addition, The American Heart Association and American Cardiology Association recommends a daily intake of 2-3 grams of Omega-3s (EPA and DHA in a 3:1 ratio) for overall cardiovascular health. Omega-3s are also beneficial for mental functions, joint health, hair, nails, and skin vibrances.

There are many Omega-3 products on the market today which are sourced and produced quite differently. The Dry Eye Spa of West Michigan researches and recommends consuming only certain Omega-3 products that are proven to be highly effective for dry eye therapy as well as for healthier bodies. Special Omega-3 blood testing is also offered for patients who wish to evaluate their before and after levels of Omega-3 upon using a nutriceutical product over a period of 90-120 days.

Meibomian Gland Characteristics

(A) Typical Meibomian gland orientation with glands running parallel and the full length of the eyelid, (B) Meibomian gland atrophy represented by shortened glands and trailing “empty” space, and (C) Meibomian gland tortuosity represented by glands with sharp bends (! 45˚) or curly/hook appearances. Images courtesy of the Clinical Research Center, University of California, Berkeley.

Risk factors for severe Meibomian gland atrophy in a young adult population: A cross-sectional study – Scientific Figure on ResearchGate. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Meibomian-gland-characteristics-A-Typical-Meibomian-gland-orientation-with-glands_fig1_320094330

Relief is in sight

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