Port Hueneme - Oxnard Optometrist   Dr. Don Steensma 465 W. Channel Islands Blvd, Port Hueneme, CA 805/486-3585

Do you have “dry eyes”?  Many people in their 40’s and older do!

The term “dry eye” refers to a wide spectrum of ocular conditions.  The most common symptoms are dry, red, gritty, and even watery eyes.  It often feels as though there is something foreign on your eye. Every time we blink, tear glands within the eyelid secrete tears.  These tears lubricate the eye and help prevent infection. A healthy tear film consists primarily of a delicate balance of two layers.  A thin outer oily layer reduces evaporation of the tears.  Below the outer oily layer is a watery layer called the aqueous layer, which makes up 98% of the tear film.  It helps rinse and clean the front surface of the eye.  These normal tears nourish and refresh the eyes.

When the normal tear film breaks down, the eye begins to dry out.  When that happens our eyes begin to burn and often the tear gland releases watery tears.  These tears normally are only released to rinse out a foreign body or during emotional crying.  They cause inflammation and irritate the eyes.  That’s why dry eyes leads to red, burning,irritated eyes just like crying does.

The four basic causes for dry eye:

  • Anatomical  -  In this case the tear drainage system is too efficient and the normal tears are drained away too rapidly.
  • Oil Deficient  -  There are hundreds of oil glands within the eyelids.  When they become deficient the oily tear layer is not adequate and the normal tears rapidly evaporate away resulting in a dry eye.  It is treated with eyelid scrubs, eyelid massages and sometimes antibiotics
  • Aqueous Deficient  -  This tear layer is primarily water.  It may be deficient in an autoimmune syndrome called Sjogren's syndrome and a non-immune based condition, which is often related to hormonal levels. Some men and many women over age 45 have this problem.  Some medications can also affect this layer.
  • Inflammatory  -  Recent research indicates inflammation of the tear gland results in less tears being produced.  This is thought to be a frequent cause of dry eye.

Click here to see a video about dry eye treatment

The four basic treatments for dry eye:

  • Lubricating drops are the traditional treatment for dry eyes.  They help but relief does not last long and sometimes there are reactions to the preservatives in the drops.
  • Punctal plugs are very small plugs, which are placed in the tear drainage duct. They prevent tears from draining away, so the eye is not as dry.  This is a painless procedure, which takes only a few minutes and produces substantial improvement for many people with dry eyes.
  • An anti-inflammatory medication (Restasis ©) is prescribed which actively suppresses the inflammatory response rather than passively lubricating the ocular surface.
  • Warm compresses can soften up the oil in the oil glands allowing more oil to flow over the tears decreasing evaporation of the tears.

If you have red, burning, irritated, tearing eyes let Dr. Steensma know.  With the new treatments available these days, why put up with the irritation?

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