About nine million Americans have moderate or severe Dry Eye Syndrome. An additional 20 to 30 million people are estimated to experience symptoms—including blurred vision, foreign body sensation, and sensitivity to light. Left undiagnosed, it can lead to ocular complications such as cornea ulceration. Feel like we’re talking about you? Talk to Chu Vision about Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) treatment for Dry Eye Syndrome.
What is Dry Eye Syndrome?
Ophthalmologists have started classifying dry eye syndrome as ocular surface disease, because we’ve learned that dry eye is not just a lack of tears. Many patients with adequate tear production also suffer from dry eye due to a poor quality tear film on the surface of the eye.
A greater understanding of tears has led ophthalmologists to value the fluid as the underlying stabilizer of eye health—filled with proteins and electrolytes—that can minimize the symptoms of chronic dry eye. When the chemical make up or production of tears becomes unbalanced, the disruption compromises the eye.
Serving as a key component to tear balance, the meibomian glands secrete a fine layer of oil that keeps the water element of tears on the surface of the eye longer. The glands, which are located at the base of the lashes on both the upper and lower eyelids, can become abnormal with age and certain conditions, such as ocular rosacea. In those cases, the meibomian gland secretions become thick and crystalline like butter or toothpaste when it should normally be smooth like olive oil. The change in oil consistency can initiate or worsen the symptoms of chronic dry eye.
In addition to understanding the role of tears and the supporting function of the meibomian glands, ophthalmologists clarified one of the fronts that can lead to an imbalance in tear quality.
“One of the key discoveries in the last several years is that we’ve learned dry eye is caused by inflammatory pathways,” says Dr. Chu. “Chronic, low-grade inflammation on the surface of the eye leads to damage to the surface as well as the tissue that secretes the material that’s needed to keep the eye healthy.”