We have all heard the term “Dry Eye” and honestly most of us do not think this applies to us. “My eyes are are watering all the time so they aren’t dry” is one of the most common responses I hear. Unfortunately, the eye care community has done a very poor job of explaining dry eye and what this actually means.
An unstable tear film
First, dry eye is a misnomer. Very few people, except in extreme circumstances, actually have dry, non-wet, eyes. The majority of people ~86% suffer from evaporative dry eye, or in simpler terms an unstable tear film. Remember, our tears serve a variety of purposes and one of them is to be a protective barrier for the cornea (the windshield portion of the eye) from the outside environment. Think of it as a barrier to dirt, wind, and all forms of debris that can get into your eye!
Oil and water, Oh my!
Next, the tear film has multiple components. The two main ones are a water layer that moisturizes your eyes and an oil component that keeps the tear film from evaporating or breaking down. It is when this oil layer is insufficient that our eyes water. This leads to less of a barrier and more irritated eyes.
A perfect Example
Let me illustrate this with a simple example. Imagine you are outside on a hot summer day. You have two cups. One is filled with water and the other is filled with canola oil. Over the course of 48 hours in the direct heat which one will evaporate more quickly? The cup with just water, right? This is your tear film with a insufficient oil layer. Now imagine that same cup of water that is ¾ full of water and ¼ full of canola oil. The oil will form a protective barrier to the water and stop it from evaporating as quickly. This is exactly what is happening with your eyes and the tear film.
Restoring Tear function
As you can see, you need to make sure your tears are composed of the correct ratio of oil and water. In order to produce the proper oil component you need to take care of the meibomian glands that are located in your eyelids that produce the oil. If you have ever had a stye, you know what happens when these get clogged. Things like taking omega 3’s high in EPA and DHA, lid hygiene with Avenova spray or a tea tree cleanser, and using a heat mask are at home therapies that can help your glands function properly.
Expert Guidance and Therapies
If your eyes are watering and you need guidance, we love working with patients that have dry eye or any form of ocular surface disease. We can develop a customized plan to help you restore your normal tear function and composition. In addition, we have advanced therapies such as thermal pulsation and Intense Pulse Light, that are the gold standard in advanced dry eye therapies. Give our office a call or schedule an appointment here and let us get your eyes back to feeling great!