What is Dry Eye?

The tear film covers the outer surface of the eye that is exposed. It is protective to the eyes and also helps provide lubrication. When this tear film is deficient or disturbed, dry eye is the result. This is a leading cause of ocular discomfort affecting millions of people all around the world. The implications range from mild ocular distress to even sight threatening complications.


Usually, severe cases of dry eye are seen in middle-aged or elderly individuals who suffer from some autoimmune disorder. Increasingly, however, dry eye is becoming common in the younger population as well, particularly those who work on computers for prolonged periods. This is due to a decreased blink rate. Dryness is also caused or aggravated by air pollution, dust, room heaters, air conditioners or dry weather. Sometimes, there may be an anomaly in the constituents of the tear film itself that leads to its instability, causing dryness.


The symptoms of dry eye are very non-specific and varied. Patients may complain of mild ocular discomfort, irritation, foreign body sensation, etc. Disturbances in the tear film even affect the clarity of vision. In severe dry eye, the patient may be so distressed as to be unable to open the eyes.


Most cases of dry eye can be managed with eye drops of artificial tears or tear supplements. A gel form of the same drug may be used at bedtime. More severe cases may require serum drops or even occlusion of the lacrimal puncta to reduce the outflow of tears. Further modalities of treatment may be added or substituted according to the condition of the eye.