300-600 More Nerves Than Your Skin
Did you know that the cornea (the clear windshield of the eye that a contact lens sits on) has 300-600 more nerves than the skin? No wonder your whole body hurts when you get a speck of dust under a contact lens or if you scratch your eye! That’s a ton of nerves. However; this large compilation of nerves is not only for sensation but to maintain homeostasis or the natural balance of all things affecting the ocular surface.
The Cornea is the Control Center
Your cornea and the nerves are the control center of your tear film. It’s the protective barrier that protects, hydrates your eye, and allows you to see optimally. It is constantly evaluating the environment and adjusting the different components of your tears to optimize your eyes.
Keep the Gauges Functioning Properly
An analogy I like to use is putting gas in your car. You will get gas when the gauge gets close to empty. If you have ever been in the unfortunate situation in which the gas gauge does not work and always read full, you don’t know to fill up the tank, you will run out of gas, and your car will not function. The same can be said for your eye. If any aspect of the tears are out of whack or not reporting information back to the corneal nerves, you will lose the natural, optimal balance of your tears and develop an unstable tear film or dry eye.
Numerous Influencing Factors
Once the system is out of whack, it may never return to normal function. This can happen because of surgery like LASIK when the corneal nerves are damaged, a diet in which you eat a lot of highly processed foods high in omega 6’s that cause your meibomian glands to stop producing the oil layer of the tear film, or an environment that is heavy on screen time and cuts your blink rate in half and not allowing you to rehydrate your eye effectively.
Drop Free Options Available
As you can see the cornea is in charge of maintaining your ocular health, but there are a ton of moving parts. If there is any inefficiency in the system, you are not going to see optimally. When this occurs, there are numerous at-home therapies and in-office treatments. Some of these are: intense Pulse light therapy (IPL) and targeted eyelid heat therapy such as TearCare. Both of these can help restore function. If a drop free option is not right for you we can explore pharmaceutical options.
The moral of the story is to get yearly exams and keep your corneas and eyes functioning at their best! Click here to schedule an appointment.