Dry eye syndrome is a very common chronic eye disease which affects as many as 20 million Americans or more. The dry eye symptoms can vary greatly from mild eye irritation to severe eye pain and loss of vision. Approximately 60 to 70 percent of dry eye syndrome cases are women.
What is the Tear Film?
The tear film that covers the surface of the eye is composed of three different layers. Each layer contains a variety of nutrients and elements. The cells and glands around the eyes produce the different portions of the tear film. The bottom layer is the mucous layer. The middle layer is composed of the liquid portion of the tear film. The outer layer is composed of a lipid or oily layer is responsible for decreasing the evaporation of the tear film from the eye.
Health Care Costs for Dry Eye Syndrome
The direct annual health care cost of dry eyes in America is approximately 4 billion dollars. The average direct cost for a patient with dry eyes is between $600.00 and $2,500.00 per year depending on the severity of the dry eye syndrome. If you include the indirect costs such as the loss of productivity in the work place, it could be 50 billion or higher.
Symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome
The symptoms of dry eye syndrome are dryness, stinging, grittiness, foreign body sensation, itching, pain, photophobia, tearing, crusting or mucous collection, redness, inability to wear contact lenses, tired eyes, and blurred vision. These symptoms are usually worse first thing in the morning and late at night. Many people go the eye doctor complaining that their eyes burn and water.
Causes of Dry Eye Syndrome
Dry eye syndrome is due to the alteration or decrease of the tear film on the surface of the eye. The cause is due to the dysfunction of one or more of the different sets of glands that produce the layers of the tear film. Approximately 70% of patients with dry eye syndrome have meibomian gland dysfunction. This leads to the evaporation of the tears from the eye. Meibomian glands are located in the eyelids and produce the lipid layer of the tear film.
Treatment of Dry Eye Syndrome
Treatment of dry eye syndrome is started by using artificial tears as a replacement for the decreased tear film on the eye. The artificial tears on the market vary from watery to thicker gel-like drops. People with more severe cases of dry eye syndrome may also apply a lubricating ointment at bedtime. Some people have to use artificial tears every hour for comfort.
If the dry eye syndrome is the severe, there other treatments available such as an ocular eye medication instilled into the eye twice daily. This medication works by helping the glands around the eye produce better tears again.
There are ducts that drain the tears from the eye into the nose which are located on both the upper and lower eyelids toward the nasal end of the lid. These ducts can be plugged and therefore the tears present on the eye will stay on the eye and not be drained away providing improved comfort.
Newly FDA Approved Treatment for Meibomian Gland Dysfunction and Dry Eyes
A new treatment for dry eye syndrome was recently approved by the FDA. It is a system that treats the meibomian glands in the eyelids. The device heats and gently messages the eyelids to clean out the dysfunctional meibomian glands. This treatment stimulates the production of the necessary lipid portion of the tear film. This new treatment holds great promise for people with dry eye syndrome.
Dry eye syndrome is a significant medical eye disease with a tremendous affect on the quality of life and productivity of the American population.