Dry Eye Syndrome is a chronic lack of sufficient lubrication and moisture in the eye. Its consequences range from subtle but constant irritation to ocular inflammation of the anterior tissues of the eye.
Persistent dryness, scratching and burning in your eyes are signs of dry eye syndrome. Some people will also experience a foreign body sensation, the feeling that something is in the eye. Sometimes watery eyes can result from dry eye syndrome, because the excessive dryness works to overstimulate the production of the watery component of your tears.
Dry eye syndrome has several causes. It occurs as part of the natural aging process, especially during menopause, as a side effect of many medications such as antihistamines, antidepressants, birth control pills and certain blood pressure medications. Living in a dry, dusty, windy climate may also cause dry eye. If your home or office has air conditioning or a dry heating system, that too can dry out your eyes. Another cause is insufficient blinking such as when you are staring at a computer screen all day.
Dry eyes are also a symptom of systemic diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, rosacea or Sjorgren’s Syndrome (a triad of dry eyes, dry mouth and rheumatoid arthritis).
Incomplete closure of the eyelids, eyelid disease and a deficiency of the tear producing glands are other causes. Tears are composed of three layers; the outer, oily, lipid layer, the middle, watery, lacrimal layer and the inner mucous or mucin layer. Each layer is produced by a different set of ocular glands, so a problem with any of these sources can result in a dry eye.
Until now, the main treatment for dry eye has involved the use of a variety of artificial tears. One eye drop, Restasis (cyclosporine in a castor oil base), actually helps your eyes increase tear production.
Recent research has demonstrated that one of the most promising systems for alleviating the pain caused by the worst dry eye ocular surface conditions is the scleral lens. The scleral lenses that we use are sized and shaped to avoid all contact with the cornea, maintaining a space between the back surface of the lens and dried, compromised corneal tissue.
Because the surface of the cornea is submerged in artificial tears at all times, it is protected from the desiccating effects of air exposure and the friction of blinking. This enables the scleral lens to be well tolerated and therapeutic for severe dry eyes and other ocular surface complications.
In eyes suffering from extreme ocular surface disease, scleral lenses have been successful in eliminating pain and light sensitivity. Devastating dry eyes resulting from LASIK surgery are best taken care of with scleral lenses. Post-lasik corneas often have very irregular surfaces surgically induced in addition to the dry eye condition. Scleral lenses will address both of these conditions extremely well in most cases.
The following are ocular photos of patients I have treated who have dry eyes as a result of refractive or ocular surgery or disease.
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