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Dry Eyes
 

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Your Natural Tears

Your eyes are mainly lubricated by tears produced by your tear glands located in the upper eyelids (below the eyebrows.) The natural tears produced by the tear producing glands make your eyes feel cool, comfortable, refreshed, and help prevent infections of your eye and eyelids.

Bllinking spreads a thin film of tears across the surface of your eyes. Then, the tears move to the inside area of the eye and through the tear drainage ducts into the nose and throat.

What Causes Dry Eye?

There are many possible causes of dry eye. The most common include:

bulletThe Aging Process: As we grow older, our eyes produce fewer lubricating tears. A condition associated with arthritis, known as Sjogren's syndrome, can also dry out the mouth and eyes. The classic Sjogren's-Associated dry eye affects up to two percent of the population. This triad of symptoms includes: dry eye, dry mouth and arthritis. Dry eyes can be caused by medication, dehydration, inflammation of the eyelids and/or skin, previous eye surgery, systemic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disease, lupus, sarcoidosis and even poor blinking habits (such as staring at a computer). At age 65 the tear glands produce about 40% of the lubricating tears they produced at age 18.
bulletMenopause and Pregnancy: While men and women of any age can be affected, women are more prone to develop dry eyes after menopause and during pregnancy. The hormone estrogen is also linked to dry eyes.
bullet Contact Lenses: Dry eye is a major cause of contact lens discomfort.  Wearing lenses frequently causes an increase in tear evaporation which leads to irritation, increased protein deposits, infection, and pain. Dry eye symptoms are the number one reason people stop wearing contact lenses.
bulletMedication: Common medication such as decongestants, antihistamines, diuretics, anticholesterol, beta-blockers, sleeping pills, psychotropic medications including anti-depressants, pain relievers, and alcohol can cause decreased in tear secretion. Frequent use of preserved eye drops or artificial tears can also aggravate dry eye conditions. 
bullet Environment:  These include sunny, windy, dry conditions; heaters, dehumidifiers, fans or air conditioners, high altitudes; smoke or air pollution; sand, dust, or airborne pollen. The list is virtually endless. You may experience dry eye symptoms while viewing television, computer screens, or while reading.
 

Can Dryness Damage your Eyes

The answer is yes. Chronic or severely dry eyes may lead to severe infection of your eye and eyelids, corneal ulceration, scarring, permanent vision loss or even loss of your eyes. Lactoferrin, an immunoprotein and anti-infectious agent) is decreased in dry eye individuals and this is one reason, why dry eye people are more prone to eye infections.

Diagnosing Dry Eye Syndrome 

Your physician may use a combination of several methods to determine whether you have Dry Eye.

Eye Drops : A few drops containing dye in each eye will help your doctor to check for any dry spots.

Color Bar Schirmer Test: This simple, painless test assesses tear volume. By placing the tip of a specially treated strip of paper in the lower lid of your eye, your doctor is able to measure the amount of tears your eye produces in a five minute period.

Temporary Closing of Tear Ducts: In this method, your physician inserts small dissolvable collagen plugs into your tear ducts to prevent tear drainage and allow tears to build up and bathe the eyes. Collagen plugs dissolve in just a few days. If you get relief from your symptoms during the test period, your physician may recommend permanent closure of your tear ducts with long-term plugs.

Short-term Relief with Artificial Tears: For patients with less severe dry eye symptoms, artificial tears can often offer immediate relief. Unfortunately, this remedy is usually temporary. While artificial tears may soothe the eyes initially, they can increase the possibility of infection by washing away the natural infection-fighting tear film of the eye.

This is why patients with more severe cases of dry eye may benefit from having their tear ducts permanently closed. This long-term solution allows patients to use their own natural tears to treat their condition. Long-term Relief with Punctum Plugs There is a simple non-surgical procedure that provides long-term relief of Dry Eye that involves the use of permanent, yet removable plugs called Punctum Plugs. 

Evaluate your diet: Drink enough purified (not tap) water? It is best to drink lots of water between meals and less with your meals. Drink at least six to eight glasses of water a day, and limit sodas, caffeine,  alcohol. Include fish, soy and other legumes, and fish oil (with Vitamin D) in your diet. These provide essential fatty acids to protect cells and stabilize the tear film. Green leafy vegetables and to a lesser extent meat supply the B vitamins. Those supplements that are good for arthritis appear to be build up other membranes such conjunctiva, mouth, nose and ears. Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, which come from plants (such as fresh flaxseed, oil of evening primrose, borage) or from cold water fish (such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, halibut and cod, but surface fish is safer than bottom feeders) are loaded with these good fats. A good supplement is approximately 500 mg of DHA (fish oil), or fresh flaxseed oil twice daily with meals. People also report that glucosamine sulfate, chondroitin sulfate and gelatin have also helped their eyes, in addition to their arthritis. Promote good digestion through water intake, exercise, lactobacillus and even digestive enzymes if necessary.

Punctal Plugs or Inserts

     

There are a number of reasons why punctum plugs have become the most popular method of treating dry eye. They have a very high rate of success; and they can be inserted easily and painlessly by a physician. They are also reversible if too much tearing is produced. The idea behind punctum plugs is simple. Tiny, non-dissolvable plugs are inserted into you tear drainage ducts (puncta) where they act as a dam. Therefore your precious tears have no place to go but onto the surface of your eyes.  

FCI "Ready-Set" Punctum Plugs The advanced design of FCI punctum plugs makes them the most efficient and comfortable plugs available. They are specially cut to follow the natural contour of the eye lid surface at the point of insertion. This assures a tighter seal, maximum comfort, and permanent relief. Made from the highest quality medical grade silicone, FCI's punctum plugs have slanted, ultra-thin collarettes that fit flush against the eyelid margin for total occlusion and maximum comfort. If your physician recommends permanent duct closure for your eyes, ask him to consider using FCI punctum plugs. 

Why do my eyes feel this way? Your eyes are a delicately balanced eco-system in which tears play a large and important role. Every time you blink, tears form a coating that protects and nourishes the eyes' surface. When tear production is reduced, your eyes feel dry, scratchy and irritated. Ironically, the tear producing glands sometimes react to the dry, scratchy feeling by watering more than ever. But these "reflex tears" do not relieve the dryness as they lack a natural component that is essential to lubricate the cornea properly. 

Medications for Dry Eyes include restasis, doxycycline, lotemax, etc.

If you experience one or any combination of the following symptoms, you may be suffering from a medical condition known as Dry Eye: 

bulletBurning and stinging
bulletLid infections
bulletGritting feeling when there is nothing in your eye Dryness
bulletAllergies or hay fever
bulletFrequent colds
bulletMiddle ear congestion
bulletContact lens discomfort, & solution sensitivity
bulletSties
bulletTired eyes
bulletItching
bulletSensitivity to bright lights
bulletMucous secretions in the eye
bulletFrequent use of lubricating eye drops
bulletRedness
bulletEye pain or soreness
bulletWatery eyes

Related Conditions:

bulletSinus congestion
bulletNasal congestion
bulletRunny nose
bulletPost-nasal drip
bulletChronic cough
bulletBronchitis
bulletAllergies or hay fever
bulletFrequent colds
bulletMiddle ear congestion
bulletDry throat or mouth
bulletHeadaches
bulletAsthma
 

Leading manufacturers of Punctal Plugs include:

SmartPlugs, FCI Ophthalmics, Lacrimedics, Ciba Vision Care, Eagle Vision, Parasol