Dry eye may feel like an annoyance, but if left untreated, it may diminish your eye function and put your eyes’ health in danger.
At Focus Eye Care & Surgery, our New York board-certified eye specialist, Dr. Neelofar Ghaznawi, performs a thorough evaluation of the underlying causes of your dry eye. She will then develop a treatment plan with you to keep your eyes in peak health.
What is dry eye?
Dry eye happens when the eyes’ various glands don’t produce enough, or the right type, of tears.
Why are tears important?
Tears are important because they keep the eyes’ surface moist, cleansed, and protected from dust, debris, and bacteria. They are the eyes’ first line of defense against infections.
Because the clear, dome-shaped surface of the eyes (cornea) receives and bends most of the light rays, tears are vital for the eyes’ overall health and clear vision.
What are the tear components?
It’s not enough that the lacrimal glands make sufficient tears; equally important is the production of the right type of tears to keep the cornea nourished.
The cornea lacks blood vessels so it depends on the tear film to keep it healthy and functioning optimally.
The tear film has three layers:
1. Outer oily, lipid layer
Produced by the meibomian glands located below the eyes.
2. Middle watery layer
Produced by the lacrimal glands located above the eyes.
3. Innermost mucin layer
Together with the lacrimal glands, the goblet cells of the conjunctiva (the outer lining of the sclera, or the white part of the eye) secrete mucin. Not only does it hydrate and lubricate the cornea, mucin also ensures that the cells of the eye surface don’t stick together when the eyes blink.
Because the cornea is the eyes’ first layer to interact with the external environment, it is critical that it has its own defense system. The mucin layer wards off harmful organisms that may cause diseases.
The rest of the tear components are made in the ciliary body just behind the iris (the colored part of the eye) and in front of the natural lens. They bring essential proteins, electrolytes, vitamins, and growth factors to the eye surface via the pupil, or the opening in the middle of the iris.
What complications can arise from dry eye?
Severe dry eyes can cause scarring of the cornea. While some vision loss may result if dry eye is left untreated, permanent blindness due to dry eyes is rare.
Get your eyes checked right away if you experience severe dryness. Our cornea surgeon, Dr. Ghaznawi, specializes in the medical and surgical treatment of severe dry eye. Schedule a consultation with us today to find out if you qualify.
What are the treatments for dry eye?
The first line of dry eye treatment is over-the-counter artificial tears. When they don’t work as well, prescription medications to stimulate tear production or control underlying inflammation may be taken.
Conserving tears is another way to treat dry eye. Eye doctors do this by plugging the tear ducts to keep tears from draining too quickly. These tiny inserts (smaller than a grain of rice) are made of silicone or gel, and they can be removed.
Tears extracted from your own blood may also be used as a supplement. A simple blood draw is performed, after which the blood is spun to separate its components. The resulting autologous serum is then enriched with growth factors, albumin, and vitamin A to encourage the healing of the cornea. Autologous serum tears are well-tolerated by the eyes.
For a more permanent solution to dry eye, surgically transplanting the salivary glands from the lower lips to the area around the eyes may be an option. The saliva, in turn, will function as a natural tear substitute.