One of the most common complaints by patients is that of frequent and excessive tearing. Sometimes this is accompanied by the sensation of burning and itching. These are common signs and symptoms of Dry Eye. Interestingly, Dry Eye is usually an eye that is very wet. There are many risk factors for this including age, computer use, hormonal changes, contact lens use and environmental conditions to name a few. This condition is due to a breakdown in the function of the tear film. The tear film has 3 layers: the inner most layer is responsible for "glueing" the middle layer to the eye. It is derived from cells in the conjuctiva that secrete a sticky substance called mucin. The middle layer is the watery layer and is secreted from the lacrimal gland that hides under the upper brow area. The outer most layer is the lipid layer that is secreted by glands in the edges of our eyelids and is responsible for slowing the evaporation rate of the water film layer. The tears not only lubricate our eye, but provide elements of the immune system that help prevent infection from entering from the outside world. Whenever one of these layers is inadequate, we run the risk of developing symptoms of dry eye or getting an eye infection.
There are several ways of addressing the issue of Dry Eye including simple artificial tear solution drops, gels or ointments, warm compresses, lid messages, lid therapy pads, prescription Restasis and heat treatments. It is believed that supplements like omega 3 fatty acids such as those found in flax seed or fish oils may also be helpful in elevating the symptoms associated with Dry Eye. Unfortunately, we have yet to discover a more long term solution to this problem. However, most find this condition manageable with some combination of the above therapies. It is best to have a thorough consultation with Dr. Wynne to see which may be the best approach for you.