Mild and moderate dry eyes are treated with eye drops. When the production of tears is severely impacted, eye drops no longer work. Your dry eye condition becomes severe and chronic.
Suppose you’ve been living with dry eye disease, in addition to the pain. In that case, dry eye disease can have a significant and even debilitating effect on your vision and quality of life.
You don’t have to just live with it. Ignoring your symptoms could lead to severe eye damage, such as a corneal ulcer or impaired vision.
Severe cornea damage can lead to cornea transplantation.
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What is Dry Eye Disease?
Dry eye disease is related to a problem with the tears which lubricate the eye surface.
The causes of this dry eye are due to:
- Tear quantity: Tear production decrease with age, hormonal changes, environmental factors like dry air or wind. Without enough tears, your eyes can feel painfully itchy or gritty. Eye drops can compensate for the lack of tears temporarily.
- When eye drops are no longer sufficient, oral dry eye treatment becomes the dry eye treatment of choice.
- Tear quality: Tears are made up of water, mucous, and oil. Suppose there are deficiencies in any of these three aspects. In that case, your tears may evaporate too quickly or fail to spread adequately over the eye.
If your symptoms are chronic and disrupt your daily life, your dry eye may be considered moderate or severe.
What Causes Severe Dry Eye Disease?
If you’re feeling burning dry eyes with blurry vision, you’re not alone. About one-third of people with dry eyes experience symptoms of severe dry eyes. And most cases—about 86%—are related to meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD). The meibomian glands are located on the edges of your eyelids. The meibomian glands are where the oil layer of tears is made, and if they’re clogged or not working correctly, dry eyes are the result.
Dry eyes are more common among older people and especially women. Dry eyes can also be caused by contact lens wearing and some medications. Medical conditions that cause severe dry eyes including:
- Autoimmune disorders including:
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Sjogren’s syndrome
- Graft vs. host disease (GVHD)
- Rosacea – people with facial rosacea almost always get ocular rosacea
- Thyroid conditions – either hyper and hypothyroid
- Vitamin A deficiency
LASIK surgery. Dry eye is prevalent following LASIK surgery and can worsen if a person already has dry eye symptoms, even mild ones, before surgery. This kind of dry eye typically resolves within six to 12 months of surgery, but for some people, it becomes chronic.
Risks of Severe Dry Eye Disease
Left untreated, you’re in for more than just discomfort from severe dry eye.
Corneal Ulcer (Keratitis)
In severe cases, dry eye can lead to a corneal ulcer, also known as keratitis. Symptoms include:
- Severe pain and redness in the eye
- The sensation of a foreign object in your eye
- A white spot on your cornea that may not be visible in the mirror
- Eye discharge
- Blurry vision
- Light Sensitivity – Photophobia
Corneal Abrasion or Erosion
A corneal abrasion is a scratch on your eye, while corneal erosion is when the layer of cells on your cornea loosens. Both can be caused by dry eyes and made worse by rubbing your eyes.
Eye doctors can advise on proper treatment, including eye drops or even surgery in severe cases.
Visual Symptoms and Quality of Life Impact
Dry eye may lead to light sensitivity, eye pain, headaches, blurred or foggy vision, and glare. These symptoms, along with the discomfort of dry eye, can affect a person’s ability to work and simply enjoy life.
A group of researchers found people over 40 years old with dry eye symptoms reported significant difficulty with many tasks, including:
- Using stairs
- Reading the newspaper
- Recognizing friends
- Watching TV
- Driving at night
Research shows that all of this combined may take a toll on your mental health.
Treatment for Severe Dry Eye Disease
Your eye doctors can assess your dry eye with a comprehensive eye exam that includes a thorough discussion of symptoms with you.
Based on your exam, your doctor will suggest a course of treatment. Keep in mind that it could take a few months to fully address your symptoms and provide sufficient relief.
Your doctor may begin by suggesting treatments that include:
- Over-the-counter artificial tears (eye drops)
- At-home warm compress and gentle eyelid massage
- Running a humidifier
- Taking Omega-3 supplements and adding more fish to your diet
- Eye hygiene if your dry eye is associated with inflammation of the eyelid known as blepharitis
Conventional Dry Eye Treatments
- Anti-inflammatory prescription eye drops, including Xiidra, Restasis, Lotemax Gel. And oral antibiotic such as tetracycline, azithromycin.
- Various in-office treatments to gently and effectively express blocked meibomian glands. Treatment recommendations might include:
- Thermal compression, such as LipiFlow
- Intense pulsed light therapy
- Radiofrequency treatment
- Debridement scaling-manually expressing the meibomian oil glands to unclog. Special forceps, Q-tips are used to push on the eyelids.
- Intraductal meibomian probing – when none of those as mentioned above methods work to unclog oil glands.
If dry eye is still causing severe discomfort and no inflammation, a doctor may suggest punctal plugs. About the size of a grain of rice, these tiny devices are inserted into the puncta of the eye, blocking tears from draining away. This can keep the eye’s surface much more comfortable.
What to do next for Severe Dry Eye
If you’re feeling the debilitating effects of dry eye, you don’t have to deal with it alone. Call us toll-free and talk to a doctor.
1-877-917-1989. Relief is on the way.
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