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Dry Eye Disease

What is dry eye?

Dry eye disease is now recognized to be a complex multifactorial disorder. Our tear film ages as we do and becomes less efficient at providing comfort and good vision. As well as good tear production, healthy wetting of the eye also relies on good lid positioning and a healthy tear composition. Treatment strategies may therefore address a number of potential problems.

How do you know if you have Dry eyes?

Patients with dry eyes typically complain of "grittiness" or a feeling of sand in the eyes. This may be ironically associated with watering of the eyes called epiphora. The reason for the paradoxical watering of eyes when they are dry is that dry eye disease is due to tears not functioning, i.e. lubricating adequately and this can be due to poor quality tears even if the quantity is normal. In such circumstances, the failure to lubricate stimulates more tears to be produced and eventually there is over-flow and watering.


What is the treatment?

Good treatment is a complex and multifactorial. It can start simply with lubricating drops, gels and ointments and then progress onto specific dry eye drugs; punctal plugs and surgery. Sometimes changing the drugs you already take or adding a new tablet can resolve the issue. Exactly what is right for you can only be ascertained at a consultation and it is helpful if you can bring a list of anything you have tried previously even if it was ineffective. As with all medical treatments, the aim is to reduce or abolish the symptoms with the minimum number of drugs and maximum safety. Sometimes, underlying conditions (such as poor lid positioning or excessive skin “conjunctivochalasis” can contribute to a dry eye state and investigations and treatment can often help.

The first line of treatment is to make sure that the environment of the tear film is optimal. This may include treatment of blepharitis or correction of any lid or lash abnormality.

The second line is address the tear film. Commonly there is a combination of "evaporative dry eye" due to lid margin disease or blepharitis and "aqueous deficiency dry eye" due to a reduction tear production. The health of the lid margin and its meibomian (oil) glands needs to be assessed at a consultation, and if necessary treated (already described in the “blepharitis” section). One then looks at tear film substitutes or artificial tears. If they contain preservatives, they should be stopped and replaced with preservative-free drops. If evaporative dry eye predominates then a lipid-containing drop may be helpful but the main problem with lubricant eye drops is their short duration of action, often not more than 2 hours. Since repeated administration is bothersome, the use of an eye gels may be better or punctal plugs which reduce drainage of tears from the eye and allow the lubricants to be retained for longer. Punctal plugs can be fitted in the clinic and is a very low-risk procedure although occasionally eyes water after they are fitted.

If symptoms are particularly bad on waking, this can be due to nocturnal exposure and the fact that we make few tears when we are asleep. This can be relieved by the use of a lubricating ointment used just before sleep. Unfortunately a true ointment does blur vision to some extent and is often poorly tolerated during the day.

Patients with severe dry eye syndrome may benefit from drugs to stimulate secretion of tears or a short course of anti-inflammatory eye drops.

Although having dry eye disease can be troublesome, here at Hampshire Ophthalmology, we can provide a thorough consultation and offer good treatments which if individualised, can make a very big difference to symptoms.

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Candover Clinic Appointments
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Book an appointment to see Mr Nish Srikantha at the Candover clinic in Basingstoke, or the Healthshare Clinic in Winchester.

Both locations are modern purpose built private hospitals designed entirely for patient well-being and comfort. The Candover Clinic is a stand-alone unit located on the Basingstoke and North Hampshire Hospital. The Healthshare Clinic on the outskirts of Winchester boasts a purpose built ophthalmic outpatients department and operating theatre offering the latest diagnostic and treatment technologies.

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