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Dry eye is typically a chronic condition in which your eyes lack proper lubrication. Other terms for dry eye include:
You can have dry eyes when your eyes do not make enough tears, or when your tears are of poor quality. A healthy tear film is important because your tears flush out irritants, protect from eye infections, help you see clearly, and lubricate your eyes.
Your tear film consists of three layers:
Each time you blink, your eyelids help distribute a fresh layer of tears across your eye. However, if there is a deficiency in any of these layers of the tear film, you can have dry eyes.
Dry eye is categorized based on the affected tear film layer:
This is when your lacrimal glands do not produce enough of the aqueous layer of tears. This type is less common and usually affects people with underlying systemic conditions, which we will review below.
This occurs when you do not have a sufficient lipid layer in your tear film, causing the aqueous layer to evaporate. This form of dry eye is most common and occurs when your Meibomian (oil) glands are clogged. People with rosacea may be prone to evaporative dry eye.
Dry eye syndrome (chronic dry eye) affects a large percentage of the population. These percentages are likely to increase, considering the frequent use of digital devices, which can aggravate dry eyes.
Studies estimate that approximately 7 to 33% of people have dry eye symptoms.
Physical symptoms of dry eye syndrome include:
Visual symptoms of dry eye syndrome include:
Several factors can influence your risk for dry eyes. Generally, women and older people are more likely to develop dry eye syndrome.
There are a variety of treatments for dry eye, depending on the severity of the disease. Some at-home therapies include:
There are also prescription medications or in-office treatments your eye doctor can use to treat dry eye:
Dry eye rarely causes blindness. However, in cases of severe dry eye disease, patients can experience significant pain and blurry vision.
Your cornea, the clear covering over your eye, is a delicate tissue filled with nerves. Good corneal health is essential for clear vision. Severe dry eye syndrome can damage the cornea, which is why you have symptoms of pain and blurry vision. If left untreated, permanent scarring of the cornea and vision loss can occur.
In addition to the therapies listed above, severe dry eye may also be treated with:
The connection between dry eyes and migraines is unclear. However, people who get frequent migraines appear to develop dry eyes more often.
Dry eye is typically not a risk factor for floaters. Eye floaters are spots you see in your field of vision. They are common and usually harmless. Some spots can move around, while other floaters appear stationary. Other people may see flashes of light instead of spots, which can look like someone is turning the light switch on and off.
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