What is dry- eye syndrome?
Dry eye is a condition in which a person doesn’t have enough quality tears to lubricate and nourish the eye, which can lead to dryness, burning, itchiness, heavy and sore eyes, blurred vision, photophobia (light sensitivity). The condition is caused by a multitude of factors with longer screen time being one of them.
What causes dry eye?
‘‘Over the last few years, the number of cases of dry eye in Jalandhar have significantly increased. I often have people coming to me with complaints of burning and sensitivity. The increasing levels of pollution coupled with the significant number of hours spent staring at work screens, dry eye is becoming a frequent issue among our population’. Historically, doctors have had to try and clear blockages in the Meibomian glands of by physically squeezing the eyelid—a sometimes painful remedy which may not always lead to results. Now we have better options like thermal pulsation technologies which warm these glands in your eye. This combination of heat plus pressure massages any blockages and liquefies and clears the obstructions that are causing your symptoms.” said Dr. JS Thind, Chairman & Managing Director, Thind Eye Hospital, Jalandhar.
In over 80% of cases, dysfunction of the meibomian glands is found to be the underlying cause of dry eye, which is an under the diagnosed condition in India.
In healthy people, the meibomian glands help lubricate the eye as a person blinks and in this way, help to protect against tear evaporation, by keeping the surface of the eye moist. In people with meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD), these glands get blocked, preventing the eyes from secreting adequate fluid to keep the eye well lubricated. This leads to dry eye, which causes eye discomfort, irritation and often inflammation.
The constant use of electronic devices which prompts one to stare at a screen for long periods of time, without blinking, contributes to dry eye. This makes office-workers especially vulnerable to this condition.
Research shows that the risk of MGD (and dry eye) increases with age. Women are more likely to develop dry eye syndrome, especially with hormonal changes during pregnancy or menopause. Certain medical conditions also increase a person’s risk, including high cholesterol, thyroid disease, cataracts, vitamin A deficiency, autoimmune diseases such as Lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, some bacterial infections, and drugs that reduce androgen or use estrogen replacement therapy.
Why is it important to know about dry eye?
While dry eye may seem relatively less harmful, it can lead to serious consequences. Besides the above symptoms, dry eye can cause inflammation and (sometimes permanent) damage to the surface of the eye. Advanced dry eyes may damage the front surface of the eye and impair vision.
How is technology evolving to address the diagnosis and treatment of dry eyes?
Dry eye can be treated by adding or increasing tears (using eye drops or other medication), conserving tears – using punctal plugs which makes the tears in your eyes stay longer.
There are also imaging technologies which capture high-definition pictures of the meibomian glands and measures the absolute thickness of tear film lipid. It helps doctors examine the lipid layer of the tear film in real time and determine the presence and extent of any abnormalities. In people confirmed to have MGD, thermal pulsation systems can be used to liquefy and clear obstructions in the meibomian glands, significantly relieving symptoms of dry eye.