The condition is called keratoconjunctivitis sicca but is simply known as dry eye. It is a very common eye disease. It affects 5–34% of people to some degree depending on the population looked at. Among older people it affects up to 70%.
It occurs when the eyes don’t make enough tears or the tears evaporate too quickly, as often happens on a long-haul flight, for instance.
This can result from contact lens use, meibomian gland dysfunction, allergies, pregnancy, Sjögren’s syndrome, vitamin A deficiency, LASIK surgery, and certain medications such as antihistamines, some blood pressure medication, hormone replacement therapy, and antidepressants. Chronic conjunctivitis such as from tobacco smoke exposure or infection may also lead to the condition.
Most cases are mild and don’t require treatment, but when left untreated, the corneal surface is often damaged and left vulnerable to ulceration and infection.
“Dry eye diseases cause burning sensations, foreign body sensation and irritation in the eye,” says Dr Armoush.
Other associated symptoms include irritation, redness, discharge, and easily fatigued eyes. Blurred vision may also occur. The symptoms can range from mild and occasional to severe and continuous.
The standard course of treatment in case of severe dryness is to prescribe lubricant eye drops known as artificial tears for daily use and ointments to be applied each night. “In addition, omega-3 supplements could be beneficial,” Dr Armoush says.
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