Dry Eye – A big issue for Australians

Dry eye disease affects more than 4 million Australians and it’s on the rise.

In January 2020, Optometry Australia reported 77 percent of Australians have suffered with dry eye, yet only 26 percent have seen an optometrist about the latest treatment options available.

What causes dry eye disease?

Dry eye disease is caused by an imbalance in the different components of the tear film – the layer that coats and protects the eye surface. An adequate and consistent layer of tears is essential to keep your eyes healthy, comfortable and seeing well.

The tear film is the first protective barrier of the eye. It protects the eye from microbes and physical irritants, as well as chemicals and pollution in the air. If the tear layer is insufficient, patients are far more susceptible to getting symptoms of irritation, grittiness, soreness and redness of the eyes.

A normal tear film consists of three important components and each with a critical purpose.

  • An oily component is produced by Meibomian glands in the top and bottom eyelids
  • A watery component is produced by lacrimal glands in the top eyelids
  • A mucus component is produced in the cells that cover the white of the eye

A number of factors can increase your risk of dry eye:

  • Contact lens wear
  • Age
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Smoking
  • Health conditions such as diabetes, thyroid disease, arthritis and lupus
  • Medications
  • Aeroplane travel
  • Eyelid problems
  • Menopause

In the past, dry eye was considered an age-related condition but due to environmental factors, younger patients are now being diagnosed with dry eye disease. Contributory environmental factors include:

  • Working in air-conditioned offices
  • Using digital devices for extended periods of time
  • Pollution
  • Smoke (cigarette, bush fire etc)
  • Change in season or weather

What symptoms do patients with dry eye experience?

The symptoms of dry eye are quite broad and range in severity. They include:

  • Stinging or burning of the eyes
  • A scratchy or gritty sensation, the feeling that something is in the eye (foreign body sensation)
  • Red eyes and/or eyelids
  • Blurred vision, especially when reading
  • Watery eyes
  • Difficulty with contact lens wear

Often, examination of the eyes can reveal clinical signs of dry eye before symptoms occur. Environmental changes or workplace changes can cause patients to become symptomatic.

How is dry eye treated?

Dry eye is a multi-factorial disease and people often have more than one contributing factor. The cause of dry eye and its presentation varies and therefore the investigative pathway is not always the same. The diagnosis and management of dry eye disease is complex and requires specialised equipment and clear, evidence based protocols.

At Dwyer & Ross Optometrists, we perform a comprehensive assessment of your dry eyes and have a wide range of management options to help treat your symptoms. This assessment includes examination of the eyelids, the eyelashes and the surface of the eye. The tear film is assessed for quality and quantity and the function of the Meibomian glands and the lacrimal glands is assessed.

Treatment for dry eye is based on the type and severity of the condition. Our dedicated dry eye clinic offers some of the latest services and treatments available to patients. Most dry eye disease is treated with some form of ocular lubricants. All of our optometrists are therapeutically qualified to prescribe medicated eye drops for dry eye, such as anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressant eye drops.

In-office treatments, such as Blephasteam and Meibomian gland expression, are aimed at improving the function of the Meibomian glands and the production of oil. At home treatments can also be recommended. Nutrition supplements, such as Omega 3s, can also play a role in the treatment of dry eye. Often, a combination of these treatments is the best way to manage the condition.  

Dry eye is a chronic and progressive condition and correct diagnosis is essential to form an appropriate treatment plan. If you are among the many Australians who suffer from the irritable and often debilitating symptoms of dry eye disease, our optometrists are ready to help you achieve better ocular comfort and sharper vision.

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Dwyer & Ross Optometrists

266 Oxley Avenue
Margate, QLD 4019

(07) 3883 1810