Dry Eye


Dry eye is one of the most common problems treated by eye doctors. It is a chronic disease in which our eyes do not produce enough tears or enough quality tears to lubricate and nourish the eyes. This is often due to a disruption in one or more of the three layers of our tear film.

Why are tears important?

Tears are important to help you see clearly and to maintain the healthy functioning of the eye. Tears keep the eyes moist and prevent dryness by coating the surface of the eye as well as protecting it from external irritants.

Your body makes three types of tears:

  • Basal Tears. These tears lubricate, nourish and protect your cornea, keeping dirt and debris away.
  • Reflex Tears. These tears are formed when your eyes need to wash away harmful irritants, such as smoke, foreign bodies, or onion fumes. Your eyes release larger amounts of reflex tears than basal tears and may contain more antibodies to help fight against bacteria.
  • Emotional Tears. These tears are produced in response to joy, sadness, fear and other emotional states.

How do tears work?

When you blink, a film of tears spreads over the eyes to keep the eye’s surface smooth and clear. The tear film is important for good vision. It is made of three layers. They contain enzymes, lipids, metabolites, and electrolytes. Each tear has three layers:

  • Inner mucus layer. It keeps the whole tear fastened to the eye.
  • Watery Middle Layer (the thickest layer). It keeps the eye hydrated, repels bacteria and protects the cornea.
  • Outer Oily Layer. It keeps the surface of the tear smooth for the eye to see through and prevents the other layers from evaporating.

Normally, our eyes make a lot of tears to keep them moist. When the eyes don’t make enough tears or something affects one or more layers of the tear film, you end up with dry eyes.

How does your body make tears?

The lacrimal glands above each eye produce your tears. As you blink, tears spread across the surface of the eye.

Tears are produced by two different methods. One method produces tears at a slow, steady rate and is responsible for normal eye lubrication. The other method produces large quantities of tears in response to eye irritation or emotions.

How does dry eye develop?

When the normal amount of tear production decreases or tears evaporate too quickly from the eyes, symptoms of dry eye can develop. If tears evaporate too quickly or do not spread evenly over the cornea due to deficiencies with any of these three layers, dry eye symptoms can develop.

The most common form of dry eyes occurs when the water layer of tears is inadequate. This condition, called keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), is also referred to as dry eye syndrome.

What causes dry eye?

Men and women can both get dry eye but it is more common in women, especially those who have gone through menopause. Dry eye syndrome is usually caused by a problem with the quality of the tear film that lubricates the eye. 

One of the most common reasons for dryness is simply due to the normal aging process. Contact lens wearers may also experience dryness because contact lenses absorb the tear film, causing proteins to form on the surface of the lens. Certain medications, thyroid conditions, vitamin A deficiency, and diseases such as Parkinson’s and Sjogren’s may also cause dryness.

What are the symptoms of dry eye?

The signs and symptoms of dry eye vary from person to person and range in severity. They may include

  • Burning
  • Stinging
  • Itching
  • Irritation
  • Scratchiness
  • Stringy mucus in or around the eyes
  • Excess tearing
  • Blurred vision (especially when reading) that improves with blinking

Having excess tears may sound strange, but your eyes make more tears when they are irritated by dry eye.

How is dry eye diagnosed?

Dry eyes can be diagnosed through a comprehensive eye examination. Your eye doctor will review your medical history with you to determine if any general health problems, medications, or environmental factors may be contributing to the dry eye problem. Your eye doctor will also conduct an external examination of the eye, including lid structure and blink dynamics, and evaluate the eyelids and cornea using bright light and magnification.  

Additionally, your eye doctor will measure the production, evaporation rate, and quality of the tear film to check for any abnormalities. Special drops that highlight problems that would otherwise be invisible may be helpful in diagnosing the extent of the dryness.

What is the treatment for dry eye?

When it comes to dry eye, everyone’s needs are different and your eye doctor will determine which treatment is best for you based on your individual circumstances. Generally, the first line of treatment is eye drops called artificial tears. These are available without a prescription and can be used as often as you need them. There are many over-the-counter brands to choose from, but look for preservative-free tears to avoid chemical irritation to your eyes. 

Over the past several years, different diagnostic tests have been used to diagnose dry eye and new treatment methods have been introduced to better manage the disease, some of which include:

  • Oculus
  • TearLab
  • TearCare
  • BlephEx
  • Oasis
  • Bruder Mask
  • Hydro Eye Supplements
  • InflammaDry

These treatments can be combined to help minimize and eliminate the signs and symptoms associated with dry eye.

Dry Eye Clinic at Fisher-Swale-Nicholson Eye Center in Bourbonnais, IL

If you suffer from dry eye or any of the signs or symptoms of dry eye, schedule your Dry Eye Evaluation with Fisher-Swale-Nicholson Eye Center today! Our staff uses the latest technology and treatments available and customizes treatments to each patient’s individual needs.

Contact us today at (815) 932-2020 for the relief of your Dry Eye Symptoms.