Dry eye syndrome is caused by a chronic lack of sufficient lubrication and moisture on the surface of the eye. Consequences of dry eyes range from subtle but constant eye irritation to significant inflammation and even scarring of the front surface of the eye.
In addition to being called dry eye syndrome, dry eye disease, or simply "dry eye," alternative medical terms used to describe dry eyes include:
• Keratitis sicca. Generally used to describe dryness and inflammation of the cornea.
• Keratoconjunctivitis sicca. Used to describe dry eye that affects both the cornea and the conjunctiva.
• Dysfunctional tear syndrome. Used to emphasize that inadequate quality of tears can be just as important as inadequate quantity.
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.
Dry Eye Symptoms
Symptoms of dry eyes and dry eye syndrome include:
Photophobia (light sensitivity)
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.
Dry eye syndrome also can affect the outcomes of LASIK and cataract surgery.
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.
Source: All About Vision