Chronic dry eye is an inflammatory disorder of tears and the surface of the eye, also called the ocular surface. It encompasses a group of disorders, which typically cause symptoms of dryness and overall eye discomfort. It may also cause stinging, burning, a gritty feeling or episodes of blurred vision.
The condition affects an estimated 5 percent to 30 percent of the population age 50 and older in the United States. In addition, tens of millions of Americans experience less severe symptoms of the disorder.
Chronic dry eye is one of the most common reasons people visit an eye health professional. It occurs most often in the elderly.
The exact cause of chronic dry eye is unknown. External factors may aggravate dry eye symptoms, including conditions common in many workplaces such as prolonged computer use and exposure to air conditioning, heating, dust and allergens.
But chronic dry eye should not be confused with eye allergies, an even more pervasive problem. Eye allergies are reactions to substances in the environment that can result in some of the same types of discomforts associated with eye dryness.
There are two major types of chronic dry eye: aqueous tear-deficient and evaporative. Both can cause your eyes to sting or burn, feel scratchy, become irritated and tear excessively.
Chronic dry eye most commonly occurs in both eyes but may affect one eye more than the other. People with dry eyes have difficulty wearing contact lenses. They also may develop mucus in or around their eyes. There can be pain and redness in the eye, a feeling of heavy eyelids or blurred, changing or decreased vision. People with more severe cases of dry eye often are also sensitive to light.
Although eye infections are more common in people with chronic dry eye, irreversible vision is rare. More commonly, people with dry eye have fluctuating vision and experience problems with tasks requiring visual concentration such as reading, using a computer and driving. Most people with dry eye find the condition to be an uncomfortable nuisance, with many characteristics of other “chronic pain” types of syndromes.
Understanding the Role of Tear Film
The tear film on your eyes actually consists of the following three major components:
- Lipid. The outer layer of the tear film is covered by an oily layer produced by meibomian glands in the lower and upper eyelids. This layer smoothes the eye’s surface and keeps tears from evaporating too fast and helps them stay on the eye.
- Aqueous. The aqueous component is a watery layer that is produced by the lacrimal glands. This layer makes up most of what we normally consider tears. It nourishes the cornea (the clear tissue of the outer protective layer of the eye that transmits light) and the conjunctiva (a thin, clear layer of tissue that covers the white outer surface of the eye). This tear layer also cleanses the eye and washes away foreign particles or irritants that are wrapped up by the other major component—mucin.
- Mucin. The goblet cells of the conjunctiva, as well as the surface cells of the cornea and the conjunctiva, produce this protective lubricant of tears. It helps spread the watery layer of tears across the eye to keep the eye wet, and it traps and wraps up foreign pathogens and debris so they do not damage the ocular surface.
As we age, the eyes naturally produce fewer tears. However, sometimes the lipid and mucin layers produced by the eye are so unstable that tears can’t remain on the eye long enough to keep it lubricated. Chronic dry eye—also called dry eye disease, dry eye syndrome, keratoconjunctivitis sicca or simply dry eye—is the result.
Chronic dry eye occurs most often in older women. Information gathered from the Women’s Health Study, a large cohort study in which 25,665 postmenopausal women provided information about the use of hormone replacement therapy, suggests that those who use hormone replacement therapy, particularly estrogen alone, are at increased risk of chronic dry eye. A relatively uncommon but often more serious form of the disorder is associated with rheumatoid arthritis or dry mouth and is calledSjögren’s syndrome. Sjögren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disease that attacks the body’s lubricating glands, such as the tear and salivary glands.
Recent research suggests that contact lenses, refractive surgery (such as LASIK), and use of computers and smartphones are also risk factors for chronic dry eye. Allergies can also contribute to eye dryness, causing additional eye discomforts such as itchiness, redness, swelling and wateriness.
Although chronic dry eye has no cure, its symptoms can be managed. Over-the-counter artificial tears that lubricate the eye are the most common treatment. Other treatments include eye ointments, antibiotics (both oral and drops) and avoiding environmental triggers such as hair dryers and rooms with low humidity. A prescription medication, cyclosporine ophthalmic emulsion 0.05% (Restasis), works to increase the body’s ability to produce its own tears.
In cases of moderate to severe dry eye, tears can be conserved by placement of a temporary or permanent punctal plug into the channel at the inner corner of the eyelid where tears drain into the nose and the back of the throat. And in some cases, a surgical procedure to close the tear ducts is needed.
Your ophthalmologist or optometrist can diagnose chronic dry eye during an eye examination. A complete physical examination and blood tests may be necessary to diagnose any underlying diseases, such as Sjögren’s syndrome. Make sure you tell your eye care professional what medications you are taking because many drugs can aggravate dryness of the eyes. Among those that can contribute to chronic dry eye are:
- some high blood pressure medications, including diuretics
- certain antidepressants
- some heart medications
- Parkinson disease medications
- sleeping pills
- birth control pills
- some pain relievers
The early symptoms of chronic dry eye may include:
- eye redness
- burning, stinging or scratchy sensation in the eye, especially in an environment with low humidity
- a feeling that something is in the eye
- trouble wearing contact lenses
- a gritty feeling that may be persistent and painful
- eye dryness
- excessive tearing
- blurry vision
In mild cases, these symptoms may come and go. An individual may have some or all of these symptoms. As the condition worsens, the symptoms tend to become more persistent. People who have severe cases of chronic dry eye may find little or no relief for these symptoms from artificial tears, have eyes that are unusually sensitive to light and may experience severe eye pain or notice changing vision.
Because many people are unable to tolerate contact lenses, they may desire corrective surgery such as laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis (LASIK). But according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, LASIK eye surgery may lead to temporary or permanent chronic dry eye, requiring intensive drop therapy or use of plugs or other procedures.
During your eye examination, your eye care professional may look at your eyes with a slit lamp, a lighted, microscope-like instrument that illuminates the eyes. Your eye care professional will focus on the front of your eye and check whether it remains moist or quickly develops dry spots. If the eye is deficient in tears, particularly in mucin or lipid parts of tears, dry spots appear quickly.
Your eye care professional may also conduct one of the following tests for dry eyes:
- Schirmer test. The Schirmer test, the main test for dry eyes, measures tear production. It is often conducted when your eye care professional sees a lack of a tear pool during the initial slit lamp examination and finds dry areas in one of the stain tests. Your eye care professional will take a special strip of filter paper, put a tiny fold in it and place it on the tear pool on the edge of the lower eyelid. The paper remains in place for five minutes, absorbing the tears. Some people find this slightly uncomfortable. It does not affect vision. After five minutes, the paper strip is removed and the area of wetness measured in millimeters (mm). A wetness area of 10 mm or more is normal. A reading of less than 10 mm is below normal, but most people can tolerate it and may have a few symptoms. A reading of less than 4 mm is considered severe, and most people at this level have some symptoms.
- Fluorescein stain test. Your eye care professional will place eyedrops containing a fluorescent dye called fluorescein into your eyes and examine them with the slit lamp while shining a blue-colored light on the eyes. You may feel a slight burning sensation in the eyes after receiving the drops, but it will disappear within seconds. Fluorescein stain is used to evaluate tear film. In addition, the dye stains dry areas and shows any erosion on the eye’s surface that occurs as a result of dryness. As your tears naturally replace themselves, over several minutes, the dye is washed out of the eye. The test, which is conducted in minutes, does not affect vision.
- Rose Bengal stain test. This is another test in which dye is placed in the eyes. It tends to be a subtler test than the fluorescein stain, picking up lighter areas of dryness on the eye. It is used less frequently because it can be quite irritating in the presence of dry eyes. The dye will stain areas of dryness on the eye. As with fluorescein stain, your tears will wash the dye out of your eyes. The test takes a matter of minutes and does not affect vision.
- Lissamine green stain test. Lissamine green dye is actually a color additive in drugs, cosmetics and food. When used for dry eye testing, it has a staining profile nearly identical to Rose Bengal but does not cause ocular irritation. It stains the areas where there is poor protection of surface by the tear film.
- Tear film normalization test. The doctor will check your vision. When you get to a line on the chart that is a little blurry, the doctor will place a watery eyedrop in your eyes. If the vision improves after a few seconds, then you most likely have dry eyes. If the vision does not improve, then you most likely do not have dry eyes.
Seek a second opinion
if you are suspicious you may have chronic dry eye and your doctor does not agree. Chronic dry eye remains one of the most underdiagnosed conditions eye doctors see.
The mainstays of dry eye treatment are over-the-counter artificial tears in the form of eyedrops. Eye care professionals generally recommend you use them as often as needed to relieve symptoms, provided they don’t contain preservatives. If you use a drop that does contain preservatives, you can use it up to four times a day. How often you use the drops can depend upon how bothersome your symptoms are, how dry your immediate environment is and even how humid the weather is. Some people with chronic dry eye may find that on a rainy day, they need only a drop of artificial tears for the entire day. On a dry, sunny and windy day, they may use a drop every hour.
Artificial tears primarily provide symptomatic relief and do not address the underlying causes of dry eye; however, they may be adequate for treating mild or episodic dry eyes. Further, they are a “foundation” therapy for all levels of severity and are recommended as a treatment component as additional therapies are added. As a general rule, if you use artificial tears three or more times a day to manage your symptoms, you should visit an eye care professional to discuss additional treatments.
If you are using artificial tears frequently but find they don’t seem to relieve symptoms, the preservatives in the drops may be irritating the eye or creating an allergic reaction. In such cases, preservative-free eyedrops may be better for you.
Over-the-counter sterile eye ointments sometimes are recommended for nighttime use to lubricate the eye during sleep and to treat the scratchy eye feeling that many people experience when they wake up. Such ointments are primarily used to coat the eye when it is exposed while sleeping. This occurs in cases of nocturnal lagophthalmos, which involves the inability to close the eyelids while sleeping.
In addition, avoiding anything that can exacerbate eye dryness—such as hair dryers, rooms with low humidity, air conditioning or heat in cars (especially when vents are positioned directly at your face), wind and cigarette smoke—is recommended.
If these measures don’t relieve your symptoms, your doctor may prescribe cyclosporine ophthalmic emulsion 0.05 percent (Restasis). It is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for people whose tear production is presumed to be suppressed due to ocular inflammation. Topical cyclosporin A helps increase the eyes’ natural ability to produce tears, which may be suppressed by inflammation due to chronic dry eye. It is generally recommended to people who use artificial tear eyedrops frequently without getting long-term symptom relief. It should not be used by anyone with an active eye infection.
Another option for people with moderate to severe chronic dry eye is prescription eye inserts that work like artificial tears. The hydroxypropyl cellulose inserts (Lacrisert) are placed between the lower eyelid and eyeball once a day. They dissolve slowly, releasing a lubricating substance into the eye.
In some cases, your doctor may also prescribe steroid drops to help reduce inflammation or antibiotics in the form of drops or pills.
In the case of chronic dry eye due to eyelid problems, such as an anatomical problem or an incomplete blink, your eye care professional may refer you to a plastic surgeon who specializes in the eyes. If your eyelids are inflamed due to blepharitis, your eye care professional may recommend that you regularly clean your lids with a diluted baby shampoo solution.
People with dry eyes who wear contact lenses may benefit from special lenses that rest on the white part of the eye, creating a fluid-filled layer over the cornea that prevents it from drying out.
In cases of moderate to severe chronic dry eye, a temporary or permanent plug about the size of a sesame seed can be inserted into some of the tear draining channels, or puncta, at the inner corner of the eyelids. Here tears normally drain through the tear duct into the nose and down the throat. Blocking these exit channels helps to keep the tears on the surface of the eye longer. Plugs are inserted by your eye care professional in the office setting in minutes using a magnifying instrument to best see the puncta. These plugs may be made of silicone or collagen, are reversible and are usually a temporary measure. In cases of severe dry eye, permanent plugs may be considered. Some people with silicone plugs initially may have a sensation that something is in the eye, but the feeling usually disappears over a few hours to a few days. Many people don’t feel them at all after they’ve been inserted. Plugs can be dislodged by rubbing the eye, so your eye care professional may recommend you refrain from doing so.
In severe cases, irreversible surgical closure of the puncta may be recommended.
There is no cure for chronic dry eye and no way to prevent it. But, you can help prevent evaporation of your tears by avoiding anything that can cause dryness, such as hair dryers, environments with low humidity and wind. Placing a humidifier in the room when indoor heat is used and wearing wrap-around glasses when outside may provide some relief from the symptoms of chronic dry eye. Smoking is especially bothersome to some people and should be avoided. Additionally, symptoms can be aggravated by a number of external factors, many of which are common in workplace environments. These external factors include prolonged screen use (with computers, tablets and smartphones) and exposure to air conditioning, heating, dust, allergens and wind. If you cannot find relief from your dry eye symptoms, make an appointment with an eye care professional to discuss your symptoms.
Prevalence Of Dry Eye
Dry eyes are very common, and dry eye syndrome is a major reason for visits to the eye doctor. A recent online poll revealed that nearly half (48 percent) of Americans age 18 and older regularly experience dry eye symptoms.
Also, results from a 2012 Gallup poll show that more than 26 million Americans suffer from dry eyes, and this number is expected to increase to more than 29 million within 10 years.
Other sources estimate that nearly five million Americans age 50 and older have clinically significant dry eye syndrome, and dry eyes affect nearly twice as many women as men.
Factors Associated With Dry Eye Syndrome
A number of factors can increase your risk of dry eyes. These include:
- Computer use. When working at a computer or using a smartphone or other portable digital device, we tend to blink our eyes less fully and less frequently, which leads to greater tear evaporation and increased risk of dry eye symptoms.
- Contact lens wear. Though it can be difficult to determine the exact extent that contact lens wear contributes to dry eye problems, dry eye discomfort is a primary reason why people discontinue contact lens wear.
- Aging. Dry eye syndrome can occur at any age, but it becomes increasingly more common later in life, especially after age 50.
- Menopause. Post-menopausal women are at greater risk of dry eyes than men of the same age.
- Indoor environment. Air conditioning, ceiling fans and forced air heating systems all can decrease indoor humidity and/or hasten tear evaporation, causing dry eye symptoms.
- Outdoor environment. Arid climates and dry or windy conditions increase dry eye risks.
- Frequent flying. The air in the cabins of airplanes is extremely dry and can lead to dry eye problems, especially among frequent flyers.
- Smoking. In addition to dry eyes, smoking has been linked to serious eye problems, including macular degeneration, cataracts and uveitis. (For details, see our infographic about why smoking is bad for your eyes.)
- Health conditions. Certain systemic diseases — such as diabetes, thyroid-associated diseases, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and Sjogren’s syndrome — contribute to dry eye problems.
- Medications. Many prescription and nonprescription medicines — including antihistamines, antidepressants, certain blood pressure medications and birth control pills — increase the risk of dry eye symptoms.
- Eyelid problems. Incomplete closure of the eyelids when blinking or sleeping — a condition called lagophthalmos, which can be caused by aging or occur after cosmetic blepharoplasty or other causes — can cause severe dry eyes that can lead to a corneal ulcer if left untreated.
What Causes Dry Eye Syndrome?
An adequate and consistent layer of tears on the surface of the eye is essential to keep your eyes healthy, comfortable and seeing well. Tears bathe the eye’s surface to keep it moist and wash away dust, debris and microorganisms that could damage the cornea and lead to an eye infection.
A normal tear film consists of three important components:
- An oily (lipid) component
- A watery (aqueous) component
- A mucous-like (mucin) component
Dry eye syndrome
Each component of the tear film serves a critical purpose. For example, tear lipids help keep the tear film from evaporating too quickly and increase lubrication, while mucin helps anchor and spread the tears across the surface of the eye.
Each tear component is produced by different glands on or near the eye:
- The oily component is produced by meibomian glands in the eyelids.
- The watery component is produced by lacrimal glands located behind the outer aspect of the upper eyelids.
- The mucin component is produced by goblet cells in the conjunctiva that covers the white of the eye (sclera).
Dry Eye Symptoms
Symptoms of dry eyes and dry eye syndrome include:
- Burning sensation
- Itchy eyes
- Aching sensations
- Heavy eyes
- Fatigued eyes
- Sore eyes
- Dryness sensation
- Red eyes
- Photophobia(light sensitivity)
- Blurred vision
Another common symptom is something called a foreign body sensation — the feeling that grit or some other object or material is “in” your eye.
And as odd as it may sound, watery eyes also can be a symptom of dry eye syndrome. This is because dryness on the eye’s surface sometimes will over-stimulate production of the watery component of your tears as a protective mechanism. But this “reflex tearing” does not stay on the eye long enough to correct the underlying dry eye condition.
In addition to these symptoms, dry eyes can cause inflammation and (sometimes permanent) damage to the surface of the eye.
A problem with any of these sources of tear film components can result in tear instability and dry eyes, and there are different categories of dry eyes, depending on which component is affected.
For example, if the meibomian glands don’t produce or secrete enough oil (meibum), the tear film may evaporate too quickly — a condition called “evaporative dry eye.” The underlying condition — called meibomian gland dysfunction — is now recognized as a significant factor in many cases of dry eye syndrome.
In other cases, the primary cause of dry eye is a failure of the lacrimal glands to produce enough watery fluid (aqueous) to keep the eyes adequately moistened. This condition is called “aqueous deficiency dry eye.”
The specific type of dry eye often will determine the type of treatment your eye doctor recommends to give you relief from your dry eye symptoms
Also, LASIK and other corneal refractive surgery can sometimes cause dry eyes. In most cases, however, dry eye discomfort after LASIK is temporary and resolves within a few weeks of the procedure.
If you have dry eyes prior to LASIK, your eye doctor may recommend a dry eye treatment regimen before your procedure to insure the best possible LASIK results.
Smartphone Use Linked To Dry Eye In Schoolchildren
There might be another cost associated with children using smartphones besides a large monthly bill from the phone company: It could be causing kids to develop dry eye disease at an early age.
Researchers in Korea evaluated risk factors for dry eye disease among schoolchildren who used video devices, including smartphones. They examined 288 children and classified them as either having dry eyes or having a normal, moist eye surface (control group). Each child completed a questionnaire concerning the types of video devices they commonly used (computer, smartphone and television) and the amount of time they spent using each device.
Dry Eye Tests
The only way to know for sure if you’ve got chronic dry eye syndrome is to have your eye doctor perform one or more dry eye tests during an eye exam.
Symptoms alone are poor predictors of the presence and severity of dry eye disease. Symptoms can vary significantly from person to person, and may even be affected by personality type. Some people with only minimal or mild dry eyes may feel their eyes are very bothersome, while others may have significant dry eye problems and not consider their symptoms significant enough to see an eye doctor (or they may not experience dry eye symptoms at all).
Only a careful examination of your eyes by an optometrist or ophthalmologist can reveal the presence and severity of dry eye syndrome and help your eye doctor determine the best type of dry eye treatment to keep your eyes healthy, comfortable and seeing well.
Dry Eye Treatment And Prevention
Thankfully, there are effective treatment options if you suffer from chronic dry eye. In many cases, routine use of artificial tears and minor behavioral modifications (taking frequent breaks during computer use, for example) can significantly reduce dry eye symptoms.
In other cases, your eye doctor might recommend prescription eye medications and in-office procedures to help your body create and secrete more tears and to decrease eye irritation and inflammation.
- Dry eye syndrome is more prevalent in cities with high levels of air pollution, says one study. Cities cited include Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and Miami. And study subjects in and around Chicago and New York City were three to four times more likely to be diagnosed with dry eye syndrome than those in less urban areas with relatively little air pollution. Plus, the risk of dry eye syndrome was 13 percent higher in high altitude areas.
- More than 75 percent of women who routinely use a computer at work may suffer from dry eye disease, according to researchers in Japan. Among male workers studied, it was 60.2 percent. Risk factors for dry eye included being over 30 and using a computer more than eight hours per day.
- Reading speed can slow down for dry eye sufferers, another study found. And reading rates decrease as the severity of the dry eye disease increases.
Facts to Know
- Chronic dry eye is a group of disorders affecting the tear film.
- The exact prevalence of chronic dry eye in the United States is not known, but it is estimated to affect 5 percent to 30 percent of the population age 50 and older and is expected to increase as the population ages. In addition, tens of millions of Americans experience less severe symptoms of dry eye.
- Chronic dry eye tends to occur most often in the elderly, especially women.
- Although chronic dry eye can affect vision, it rarely produces permanent vision loss.
- Early symptoms of chronic dry eye may include eye redness, blurry vision, burning, stinging or gritty sensation in the eye, especially in an environment with low humidity; a feeling that something is in the eye; trouble wearing contact lenses; a gritty feeling that can be persistent and painful; eye dryness; and excessive tearing.
- As chronic dry eye worsens, symptoms become more persistent. People with severe cases may also have eyes that are unusually sensitive to light and may experience severe eye pain or notice changing or fluctuating vision.
- Chronic dry eye can be a symptom of an autoimmune disease called Sjögren’s syndrome that attacks the body’s lubricating glands.
- Chronic dry eye has no cure but can be treated.
- Over-the-counter artificial tears in eyedrop form are the main treatment for dry eye. Anyone experiencing dry eye symptoms or using artificial tears regularly without relief should see an eye care professional for a diagnosis.
- Punctal plugs that block tear drainage channels can help conserve tears for chronic dry eye sufferers who get little or no relief from artificial tears.
- What is chronic dry eye?Chronic dry eye is an inflammatory disorder of tears and the surface of the eye, also called the ocular surface. It encompasses a group of disorders, which typically cause symptoms of dryness and overall eye discomfort. It may also cause stinging, burning, a gritty feeling or episodes of blurred vision.
- What causes or contributes to dry eye?Chronic dry eye disproportionately affects more women than men and is often caused by hormonal changes due to aging and menopause. It also can be caused by certain medications such as antihistamines, antidepressants, diuretics, oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy.Additionally, chronic dry eye can be caused by autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, rosacea, sarcoidosis, Sjögren’s syndrome or other medical conditions such as diabetes, vitamin A deficiency and diseases such as Parkinson’s disease.Risk of chronic dry eye is also associated with use of contact lenses (especially when worn for too long or not as directed); refractive surgeries, such as LASIK; and extended use of computers, tablets and smartphones.
Chronic dry eye can be aggravated by a number of other external factors, many of which are common in the workplace, including: heating and air conditioning; reading; exposure to dust and allergens; hot, dry or windy environments; high altitude; and driving.
- Who is at risk for chronic dry eye?This disease affects an estimated 5 percent to 30 percent of the population age 50 and older. Although the cause of chronic dry eye is unknown, it tends to occur more often in women, especially those who are pregnant or postmenopausal. In addition, tens of millions of Americans have less severe symptoms of dry eye.
- How do I know if I have chronic dry eye?The early symptoms of chronic dry eye include eye redness; a burning, stinging and/or gritty sensation in the eye, especially in an environment with low humidity; a feeling that something is in the eye; trouble wearing contact lenses; a gritty feeling that is persistent and painful; eye dryness; and excessive tearing. In mild cases, these symptoms may come and go. As dry eye worsens, the symptoms become more persistent. Severe cases may also show symptoms of light sensitivity, severe eye pain or changing vision. Anyone experiencing these symptoms or using artificial tears regularly without relief should visit their eye care professional for a diagnosis.
- What’s a Schirmer test? Will it hurt?A Schirmer test measures your tear production. It is often conducted when your eye care professional sees a lack of a tear pool during the initial slit lamp examination and finds dry areas in one of the stain tests. Your eye care professional will take a special strip of filter paper, put a tiny fold in it and place it on the tear pool on the edge of the lower eyelid. The paper remains in place for five minutes, absorbing the tears. The test produces no pain, but some people find it slightly uncomfortable. It does not affect vision. After five minutes, the paper strip is removed and the area of wetness measured in millimeters (mm). A wetness area of 10 mm or above is normal. A reading of less than 10 mm is below normal, but most people can tolerate it and may have a few symptoms. A reading of less than four mm is considered severe, and most people at this level do have some symptoms.
- Can chronic dry eye be cured?No, but it can be treated. Because there is no cure, eye care professionals direct treatment at managing symptoms, but it is important to figure out why your eyes are dry. There are many factors that may contribute to chronic dry eye, some of which can be remedied, such as environmental factors.
- What are the most common treatments for chronic dry eye?Over-the-counter artificial tears in the form of eyedrops are the mainstays of chronic dry eye treatment. Your eye care professional can recommend what brands may be best for you. As a general rule, if you use artificial tears three or more times a day for dry eye symptoms, you should visit your eye care professional to discuss additional treatments.
- Artificial tears don’t seem to be relieving my symptoms. Will punctal plugs help me?Possibly, but talk to your eye care professional about what treatment might be right for you. In cases of moderate to severe chronic dry eye, a temporary or permanent plug about the size of a sesame seed can be inserted into some of the channels, or puncta, at the inner corner of the eyelid where tears drain into the nose and back of the throat. This helps conserve tears. Plugs are inserted by your eye care professional in the office in minutes using a magnifying instrument to best see the punctum. These plugs may be made of silicone or collagen, are reversible and are a temporary measure. In cases of severe dry eye, permanent plugs may be considered.
- How can I prevent chronic dry eye?There is no way to prevent chronic dry eye. But, you can help reduce your risk by avoiding anything that can cause dryness, such as hair dryers, rooms with low humidity and wind. Placing a humidifier in the room when indoor heat is used and wearing wrap-around glasses when outside may provide some relief from symptoms. Smoking is especially bothersome and should be avoided.
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