Dry Eyes and the Cornea

Dry Eyes and the Cornea

Courtesy Advanced Eye Care Center, Denton LIVING WELL Magazine

Dry or irritated eyes can be a symptom of a tear disorder that limits the ability to protect the cornea and eye surface. The symptoms can vary and may include sandy or gritty eyes, burning, soreness and eye fatigue. Each person may respond differently to this irregularity in the tears.  Patients may not know the severity of the damage to the cornea and ocular surface by symptoms alone.

It has been suggested that dry eye syndrome be replaced with the term dysfunctional tear syndrome.1 Dysfunctional tear syndrome diagnosis points toward abnormal tears as the cause of inadequate protection to the eye surface. The ocular surface is protected by both the quantity and quality of tears. Dry eye may be a term that is less accurate as patients’ eyes may not be dry in this condition. Patients with abnormal tears from dysfunctional tear syndrome may have an abnormal quality of tears, or both.

The goal of eye specialists who encounter these patients with dysfunctional tear syndrome is to restore the ocular surface to health and limit the bothersome symptoms. There are many ways to approach and treat ocular surface irritation from dysfunctional tears, starting with a complete medical history and slit lamp evaluation. Interventions may be as simple as recommendations regarding artificial tear supplementation, but may be involved as prescription medicines, laboratory evaluation, or in office procedures.

There are numerous causes of dysfunctional tears, more commonly increased evaporation of tears from eyelid disease or decreased tear production from inflammatory or autoimmune causes. Environmental factors may be playing a role, notably with prolonged visual tasks and heating/cooling systems. Over the counter and prescription medicines may be making the ocular symptoms worse. There are also many eye conditions that are separate from dysfunctional tear syndrome that can cause eye surface irritation. Your eye specialist should be able to help clarify the cause of your ocular symptoms and diagnose conditions that may be a threat to your ocular health and vision.

Schedule your appointment with Advanced Eye Care Center by calling 940-382-8000 today.

1. Behrens A, Doyle JJ, et al. Dysfunctional tear syndrome: A Delphi approach to treatment recommendations. Cornea. 2006; 25:8:900-7