Dry eye also called Dysfunctional Tear Film Disease and Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca is one of the most common reasons individuals come to the office, both in Mesa and in Show Low. The condition occurs when the tear film is not in proper balance. Multifactoral with regard to cause, severity and treatment, the symptoms of this condition may include redness, burning, itching, a feeling of dryness, and a gritty or sandy sensation when blinking. You may even have tearing if your tear film is not in balance. Your tears are not just water. Actually, there have been over 500 substances identified in tears so far. There are lipids, mucin, immunoglobulin, protective proteins that must be in proper balance to have a healthy and normal tear film.
In the Phoenix Metro area and in the White Mountains, we live in a mostly sunny, less humid, frequently dusty, windy climate. We also frequently have ceiling fans in our homes, for the cooling effect, which may make our tear film evaporate more rapidly. Air conditioning also removes the already minimal moisture from the air. In winter, home heating causes a drop in humidity that frequently worsens the condition. Collagen vascular disorders like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus erythematosis can be associated with Sjogren's Syndrome - dry eyes, dry mouth and arthritis. Laser Vision Correction is also associated with dry eyes in some patients.
At Woolf Eye and Laser Clinic we use a graded approach to threat dry eye disease depending on the severity of the symptoms. The foundation of treatment is over the counter preparations called artificial tears. There are multiple options produced by many companies, which come in various formulations and viscosities. These products do not cure dry eye disease, they help control symptoms. In mild cases, artificial tears alone maybe enough to alleviate irritation, but these may not be adequate. Nutritional supplements, vitamin A and the essential oil Omega 3, found in flax seed oil or fish oil contribute to tear health. If these "over the counter" treatments are not successful, there is now the prescription drop Restasis®, which when used on a regular, ongoing basis can replenish natural tear balance. The full effect of this drug is usually not realized for 4 to 6 months.
A further option is to have punctal plugs inserted into the tear drain that can keep the tears you are producing around longer. Permanent surgical closure of the tear drains may also be beneficial to some individuals.