Dry Eyes: The Latest Medical Breakthroughs

Monday, 10 Jan 2011 12:58 PM

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What are Dry Eyes?
"Dry eye" is a group of conditions. Each of them is characterized by loss of water from the tear film. This loss increases the proportion of salt relative to the amount of water. The eye depends on the flow of tears to provide constant moisture and lubrication for maintaining vision and comfort. Tears are a combination of water for moisture, oils for lubrication, mucus for even spreading, and antibodies and special proteins for resistance to infection. These components are secreted by special glands located around the eye. When there is an imbalance in this tear system, you may experience dry eyes.

Dry Eye Disease
Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS) is the technical name of dry eye disease. This can be further subdivided into:

* Sjögren’s syndrome associated dry eye disease
* Non Sjögren’s syndrome associated dry eye disease

Patients with aqueous tear deficiency have Sjögren’s syndrome if they have associated xerostomia (dry mouth) and/or connective tissue disease. Patients with primary Sjögren’s syndrome show evidence of a systemic autoimmune disease.

Dry Eye Problems
When tears do not adequately lubricate the eye, a person may experience:
  • Pain
  • Light sensitivity
  • A gritty sensation
  • A feeling of a foreign body or sand in the eye
  • Itching
  • Redness
  • Blurring of vision
Latest Medical Breakthroughs in Dry Eyes Treatment
Though dry eyes cannot be cured, a number of steps can be taken for treating dry eye problems. You should discuss treatment options with an ophthalmologist. Treatments for dry eyes may include:

1. Artificial teardrops or dry eye lubricants: The use of artificial teardrops is the primary treatment for dry eyes.
2. Temporary punctal occlusion: This is the temporary closing of the ducts that drain tears out of the eye and into the nose. It is done by conducting a painless test where a dissolvable plug (that dissolves over a few days) is inserted into the tear drain of the lower eyelid. This determines whether permanent plugs can provide an adequate supply of tears.
3. Permanent punctal occlusion: If temporary plugging of the tear drains works, silicone plugs (punctal occlusion) may be used to control drainage of tears into the nasal passage. The plugs hold tears around the eyes as long as they remain in place. The process being reversible, the plugs can be removed. However, many patients find the plugs to improve comfort and reduce the need for artificial tears.
4. Restasis: In 2002, the FDA approved the prescription eye drop Restasis for the treatment of chronic dry eye. Currently, it is the only prescription eye drop to help eyes improve their tear production through continued use.

Other medication including topical steroids, may also be beneficial in some cases of dry eye infections.

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