Chronic dry eye is an inflammatory disorder which affects tears and the surface of the eyes which affects between 5 and 30 percent of the population age 50 and older in the United States.
Chronic dry eye is dry eye caused by one of a number of underlying conditions which lead to either an underproduction of tears (aqueous tear-deficient dry eye) or a problem with the tear composition (evaporative dry eye). This is differentiated from dry eye which is caused by environmental or other factors which can be more easily treated. Although, external factors such as dry environments, allergies, and LASIK can aggravate chronic dry eye.
Chronic dry eye can have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life. Chronic dry eye disease can damage ocular tissues and in very serious cases, lead to scarring of the cornea. Chronic dry eye sufferers in one study reported a decrease in quality of life that was as high as breaking one's hip due to the pain and physical limitations that was experienced.
Common symptoms of chronic dry eye include general dryness and discomfort, along with a burning, stinging, or gritty feeling in the eyes. Blurry vision is also a common symptom.
There are several potential causes of chronic dry eye. These include:
If you experience the symptoms of dry eye (such as redness, stinging, burning, or gritty sensations in the eyes) over an extended period of time.
In milder cases, symptoms may come and go, and in more severe cases they will be more regular and severe.
Dry eye isn’t something that can be simply cured, but it can be effectively treated and the symptoms managed. The most important thing for dry eye is determining the precise cause, as that will help you and your doctor better determine which treatment methods are likely to have the most impact.
The most commonly used treatment is artificial tears. In more severe cases, other treatments, such as punctal plugs, can be used.
There is no definitive way to prevent chronic dry eye. However, there are ways to reduce one’s risk.
Avoiding things which cause dryness, such as low humidity areas, wind, and fair dryers, can help. Using a humidifier while indoor heat is used, or wraparound glasses while outdoors, can provide some help. Remaining properly hydrated is also always a good idea.
Additionally, if you already suffer from dry eye, taking breaks while using devices with screens can help prevent symptoms from becoming further aggravated.
Changes to your diet or reducing or changing your medication, as directed by a doctor, can also help provide some relief.