The eye is the only organ in the human body that is exposed to the outside world at all times. And as if getting to see every good (and bad) thing happening around you isn’t enough, the eyes are a magnet for all the tiny, invisible particles that float in the air and cause various complications.
One of the main complications many people suffer from is dry eye – a condition where the eyes aren’t capable of lubricating themselves enough. Dry eye syndrome (DES) might sometimes indicate an underlying health issue. If left untreated, it can lead to consequences such as infections, inflammation, and damaged corneas.
Don’t Let the Dry Eye Be Misunderstood
People who suffer from chronic dry eye wish everyone in their lives were more aware of the condition. Chronic dryness does not go away on its own. It causes a lot more discomfort and can be debilitating.
The search for a cure or a treatment that reduces symptoms can be arduous and discouraging. It’s not just doctors who don’t fully get what it is like to live with the chronic dry eye; patients do, too.
There is no definitive test for it, there is a wide range of symptoms, and experts may disagree on the serious condition. So, those suffering from chronic dry eye often try various treatments, sometimes with disappointing outcomes.
Common Symptoms and Issues
People who suffer from DES can have a variety of symptoms. It’s common to feel like something is stuck in your body. Itchy eyes or pain are also common, as is a stinging, burning, or scratching feeling. Some people experience watery eyes due to chronic dry eyes, which may come as a surprise.
Neglecting to treat dry eye can lead to a variety of issues, such as:
- Eye infections
- Difficulty reading, driving or doing other things that require good vision
- Corneal ulcers (sores)
- Eye inflammation
If Left Untreated, Dry Eyes Lead to Different Complications
Remember that dry eye occurs when your eyes either do not produce enough tears to stay wet or when your tears do not function properly. More than just a means of emotional release, crying actually helps maintain healthy eyes.
One way they do this is by helping remove bacteria from the eye’s surface, reducing the risk of infection. However, if you have DES, your tears won’t be able to accomplish their job properly. Thus, you increase the likelihood of developing eye infections.
Dust and dirt, both of which can be physically irritating, are carried away by tears as well. Therefore, corneal abrasions (little scratches to the eye’s transparent outer layer) and corneal ulcers (far more dangerous) can occur due to a lack of eye lubrication.
There is a complex relationship between dry eye and inflammation of the eye.
DES is a symptom of inflammation of the eye’s tear glands and other structures. On the other hand, dry eye conditions can damage your cornea, creating even more inflammation. This occurs when the body directs its immune cells to the site of an injury. Therefore, inflammation and dry eyes can feed off one another and exacerbate the problem.
Finding Treatment and Seeking Help
There are many who attempt to manage their chronic dry eye condition with unproven approaches, such as home remedies. They are used in addition to conventional treatment for the management of symptoms.
“Add more water to your diet, and you’ll feel better.” sounds kind of funny, but most of the time, not enough hydration can lead to dryness in the eyes. Some methods of remedy are easier than others to implement, such as taking regular breaks from digital devices to avoid digital eye strain or washing off all traces of eye makeup every night.
If you suffer from dryness in your eyes, seeing a doctor can help you figure out how to treat it effectively, reducing your risk of complications and maximizing your quality of life. Depending on the severity of the condition, they may offer medication, a surgical procedure, or other methods for treating the condition.
The best way to find a solution includes a bit of going back and forth. Many people need to make a few lifestyle changes and combine different therapies. Finding the correct treatment plan can require a lot of upkeep on a regular basis.
Here’s what doctors recommend:
- Changes in lifestyle, surroundings, and diet
- Punctal plugs that prevent fluid from draining
- Topical or oral treatments that reduce inflammation and infection
- FDA-approved medications include Restasis, Xiidra, Cequa, and Eyesuvis.
- LipiFlow, TearCare, Blephex, and customized contact lenses
Sjogren’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, lymphoma, or systemic lupus erythematosus may all be symptoms of DES. Visiting a doctor when symptoms don’t go away could mean the early detection of a condition that affects your entire body.
You may have “no tears left to cry,” but it’s not all over just yet. Even though dry eyes are one of the most uncomfortable conditions a human body can get itself into, they can be treated successfully if addressed correctly.
As with other eye conditions, it is very important to consult your ophthalmologist first before you start using any medication or decide to take on laser surgery on the eyes. Your body may be battling with other health conditions, and dry eyes may just be the first signal of a condition that you may not be aware of.