ANSWER: Dry eyes happen when your eyes do not make enough tears or when those tears are poor quality. Treatment of dry eyes often includes medication, eye drops or ointment. But new treatments for a certain type of dry eyes may provide relief when standard treatments fail.
To keep your vision clear and your eyes comfortable, you need a smooth layer of tears consistently covering the surface of your eyes. The tear film has three basic components: oil, water and mucus. Problems with any of these can cause dry eyes.
Symptoms of dry eyes often include blurry vision, eye redness, sensitivity to light, and a burning, gritty or scratchy feeling in your eyes. Dry eyes may cause excessive tearing in some cases. They can make it difficult to wear contact lenses, too. Medications, age, eyelid problems, environmental factors (such as climate) and excessive eye strain can all result in dry eyes.
For some people with chronic dry eyes, the problem stems from glands in the eyelids, called the meibomian glands. Normally, these glands make oil that slows the evaporation of tears. If the glands become blocked, tears do not contain enough oil. Then the tears evaporate too quickly, and eyes become dry. This type of dry eye condition is known as evaporative dry eye. Inflammation of the eyelid skin — a disorder called ocular rosacea — can often result in blocked meibomian glands. [...]
Critically ill patients are benefiting from a new program designed to improve care and shorten hospital stays. The Mayo Clinic Enhanced Critical Care program offers 24/7 remote monitoring of the sickest patients at six Mayo Clinic Health System hospitals.
Critical care specialist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester and program medical director Sean Caples, D.O., says, “This is a more proactive way to take care of patients. The way we’re delivering care is changing, but our end goal remains the same: providing the best care possible to patients. We’re taking advantage of new technology to help us do that.” Pulmonologist and director of the critical care unit in Eau Claire Dany Abou Abdallah, M.D., says, “It’s like having an extra set of eyes on every patient. With this program, operations center nurses and physicians continuously review patients’ vital signs and other data. The minute they notice a potential problem, they can alert the local care team.”
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Journalists: Sound bites with Dr. Caples and Dr. Abdallah are available in the downloads. B-roll of the monitoring equipment is also available in the downloads
Optometrist Bert Moritz, D.O., of the Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, Wis., explains that six extraocular muscles firmly hold the eye in the socket, making it almost impossible for eyeball subluxing (what a relief!). And though it may feel as if pressure builds in your entire face before you sneeze, it doesn’t increase in your eyes. So why then do we clamp our eyes shut when we sneeze?
“This is an involuntary reflex,” explains Moritz. “When our brain sends this muscle message, one part of the message is to close our eyes. It’s similar to a deep tendon reflex.”
Read more in this article from NBCNews.com "The Body Odd"
Treatment for Dry Eyes Focuses on Relieving Symptoms
June 3, 2011
Dear Mayo Clinic:
Could you please tell me how I might treat and overcome dry eye? My right eye is constantly tearing.
Dry eye disease is common and can develop for many reasons. Usually, the condition is chronic and cannot be cured. Instead, treatment for dry eyes focuses on relieving symptoms.
To maintain eye comfort and good vision, the front surface of your eye needs to be covered with an even layer of tears that contain the right mix of water and oils. If tears are not of sufficient quantity or quality to maintain that layer, dry eye disease (also called ocular surface disease) can develop.
Symptoms of dry eye disease may include a stinging, itchy or burning sensation in your eye, sensitivity to light, blurred vision, and mucus in or around your eye. As you've experienced, excess tearing can also be a symptom. Normally, tears are produced very slowly. But if that process fails to make enough tears, a different tear production system may be activated. And, unfortunately, this reflex mechanism usually produces too many tears.
Before you begin treatment for dry eyes, review your current medications and medical history with your doctor. Some drugs — such as high blood pressure medications, antihistamines, acne medications and decongestants — can cause dry eyes. If medication is causing the problem, a change in prescription may be all you need to relieve symptoms.
Certain medical conditions can decrease tear production. These include rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren's syndrome, diabetes and lupus, among others. In some cases, systemic treatment for these conditions may ease dry eyes.
Smoking has also been associated with an increased risk of dry eye disease. Not only is the particulate matter that is released into the air irritating to the surface of the eye, other toxins in tobacco smoke actually alter the quality of tears produced by the eye.
If switching medication or treating an underlying medical condition isn't the issue or doesn't give you enough relief, a number of treatments are available. For dry eyes caused by a lack of tears, the first therapy is over-the-counter artificial tear eyedrops. For many people, eyedrops, used about four to six times a day, are enough eye lubricant to relieve dry eye symptoms.
If artificial tears don't provide enough relief, the next step may be punctual plugs. These tiny silicone stoppers are inserted into tear duct openings, blocking the eye's drainage channel so more tears stay on the surface of the eye. The plugs can be removed if having them in place makes the eyes water too much.
Prescription cyclosporine eyedrops (Restasis) can increase the amount of tear production. However, some people with underlying medical conditions may not be able to use cyclosporine because it suppresses the body's immune system.
If none of these therapies are sufficient, additional remedies — such as moisture-chamber glasses, special contact lenses or permanent tear duct closure — are possible options. Rarely, eye surgery may be necessary for severe cases of dry eye disease that don't respond to any of these treatments.
If the source of dry eye disease is eye oil glands that aren't working properly — rather than insufficient tears — treatment is different. When these glands don't produce the right amount or consistency of oil, tears can become thick and sticky. Using warm compresses over closed eyelids for three to five minutes once or twice a day, followed by a gentle lid massage, can help melt the oil in the glands and move it to the eye's surface.
Antibiotics may also be useful for reducing inflammation in the glands that can lead to oil production problems. In addition, some evidence indicates that dietary supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids (flaxseed oil, fish oil) can improve the quality of tear oil.
Work with your eye care provider to find the appropriate dry eye treatment. For most people, dry eye disease is a chronic condition that requires long-term treatment. These therapies won't cure dry eyes, but they should help reduce symptoms enough so that you can be comfortable and function normally in your daily activities.
—Muriel Schornack, O.D., Ophthalmology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.