Don’t Ignore Your Dry Eyes: Dry Eye Complications
Dry eye complications can arise by ignoring the classic symptoms of dry eye.
If your eyes feel dry, itchy, and sometimes burn or get watery, and you are sensitive to light and your vision is sometimes blurry, you are most likely ignoring symptoms of dry eyes.
Even a mild case of dry eyes can cause all the above symptoms but ignoring dry eyes can allow serious complications to develop. An infection can develop if your eyes stay dry and over time scarring and thinning of the cornea may develop.
Tear Film is Essential to Vision and Eye Health
After blinking, a film of tear fluid coats the surface of the eye at a specific thickness and is maintained for a period of time and then evaporates. Then another blink does the same. This is called tear stability.
Tears form the first refractive surface encountered by light on its path to the retina. They lubricate and smooth the surface of the eyes so that light is refracted correctly. In a 2020 study of patients with dry eyes, they were found to have significantly worse quality of vision and more optical scatter than patients in the study who did not have dry eyes.
Tear film not only lubricates the cornea but delivers oxygen and nutrients that nourish your eyes. Tear film also removes dirt and irritants and contains a substance called lysozyme, which has an antibacterial action, and works to prevent infection from microbes.
Avoid Dry Eye Complications – Treatment for Dry Eyes
Treatments vary depending on the cause of the eye dryness. In cases in which the cause is environmental then using a humidifier, wearing sunglasses in windy weather, reducing time at the computer or on other digital devices will help. Any enclosed space with forced vented air, like air conditioning in a home, office, or car, or even an indoor fan, can make dry eyes worse so changing those conditions can go a long way to help with dry eye symptoms.
Other treatments include the use of artificial tears or ointments to keep the eyes moist. Steroid or antibiotic drops are used if the dry eye is caused by blepharitis.
Scleral lenses are a therapeutic tool used to not only correct vision but protect the ocular surface and provide continuous corneal hydration.
If tears are draining too quickly, silicone plugs can be used to partially block the tear ducts and decrease the amount of tears that are draining away.
Medications that reduce inflammation can relieve dry eye caused by autoimmune diseases.
Surgical procedures such as thermal cautery to shrink tissues around the tear ducts or salivary gland transplantation are used for severe cases of dry eye that are untreatable in any other way.
When to Seek Medical Treatment
If you have a severe case of dry eyes and you don’t seek treatment, you’re at risk for serious complications. However, serious problems seldom develop when mild to moderate dry eyes are properly treated. See your eye care professional if you’ve had prolonged symptoms of dry eyes so you can find a treatment right for you.
Gregory Scimeca, M.D.
Ophthalmologist and Medical Director
The Eye Professionals