Are your eyes red and tired at the end of the day? Does your vision become blurry after long hours of screen time? These are common complaints of a patient with dry eyes. The recent COVID-19 pandemic in the past year has kept people indoors for work purposes and many are seeking treatment for dry eyes. Dry eyes is a condition when a person doesn’t have enough quality of tears to lubricate and nourish the surface of the eye.

The tear film

Tears are important in maintaining the health of the front surface of the eye and providing clear vision. The tear film consist of three layers which are:

  1. The outer layer of the tear film is the oil or lipid layer which serves to maintain tears on the surface and avoid evaporation. The oil is produced by the meibomian glands at the eyelid margins.
  2. The middle layer is the aqueous layer which makes up most of the tear layer. It consists of water and proteins that are produced by the lacrimal gland. It functions to lubricate the eye and wash away foreign particles.
  3. The innermost layer is the mucin layer that allows the even distribution of the tears on the surface. Without the mucus layer, tears would not stick to the eye surface.

Types of dry eye

  1. Evaporative dry eye is due to tears being dried up quickly. This is caused by inflammation or blocked meibomian glands. These blocked glands cause reduced secretion of oil that leads to quick evaporation of tears.
  2. Aqueous deficient dry eye may be due to aging. The tears are produced by the lacrimal gland in the eyelids. As you grow older, certain medical conditions and side effects of medications can cause less amount of tears to be produced by the gland.

Symptoms of dry eyes

  • Below are the common symptoms experienced by those who have dry eyes.
  • Redness and eye pain
  • Stinging or burning sensation
  • Sandy or gritty sensation
  • Light sensitivity
  • Watery eyes
  • Heavy eyelids
  • Stringy mucus near the eye
  • Blurred vision

There are also some circumstances that can worsen dry eyes.

  1. Environmental changes such as windy, dusty or dry conditions can make dry eye symptoms worse. Any place with low humidity or high wind such as air-conditioners can cause the eye to dry faster.
  2. Activities such as computer or handphone use for extended periods of time can cause less blinking and lead to greater tear evaporation and dryness.
  3. Certain medications can cause dry eyes as a side effect which include antihistamines, antidepressants, certain blood pressure medications such as beta-blockers and birth control pills.
  4. LASIK and other corneal refractive surgery can sometimes cause dry eye and is usually temporary and resolves within a few weeks after the procedure.
  5. Mask-induced dry eye is also common nowadays especially worn for protection during the Covid-19 pandemic. A mask with poor fitting can cause the air we breathe to flow up across the surface of the eye and lead to evaporation and dryness.
  6. Contact lens associated dry eyes are also common among contact lens wearers as the contact lens can partially block oxygen from entering the eye. Although many contact lenses are able to allow larger amounts of oxygen to permeate the eye, the wearers can still experience dry eyes towards the end of the day.

Treatment for dry eyes

Dry eyes can be managed successfully and result in greater comfort, fewer dry eye symptoms and sometimes even sharper vision. Treatment usually depends on the root cause of your symptoms. Eye drops known as artificial tears can be used to moisturize the eyes and provide a relief for dry eyes. People with dry eyes that do not respond well to artificial tears will need to take additional steps to address their dry eye condition. One revolutionary non-invasive dry eye treatment available is Tixel, which uses thermal energy around the eyes to improve the quality of tears, hence reducing dry eye symptoms.

An ophthalmologist will be able to examine your eyes and provide you with different treatment options for your dry eye condition. Residents within Klang Valley in areas such as Cheras, Puchong, Shah Alam, Petaling Jaya, and Kepong can come visit our corneal specialists, Dr Vanitha Ratnalingam or Dr John Mathen to have their eyes examined. Residents in Seremban 2, Senawang, Sendayan and Port Dickson can visit Dr Teh Wee Min at our Seremban branch. Residents in Johor Bahru, Skudai, Kulai, Iskandar Puteri, Senai, Tebrau, Batu Pahat, Kluang, Segamat can visit Dr Ling Kiet Phang or Dr Chan Choon Teng at our Johor Bahru branch.