Dry eye syndrome is a common problem, and millions of people deal with this condition every day. It’s typically caused by a problem with your tear production and feels like the surface of your eye is burning, itching, and irritated. But many people wonder if dry eye can cause worse problems. Could dry eye syndrome lead to blindness?
In the worst-case circumstance, dry eye may lead to long-term vision problems—but this is extremely rare. You are much more likely to experience blurry vision, irritation, and redness. Fortunately, all of this can be treated with the help of a trained optometrist.
What Is Dry Eye Syndrome?
Have you ever had that uncomfortable feeling of an itching, burning sensation on the surface of your eyes? Almost as if there’s a piece of sand trapped between the eye and eyelid?
If this sounds familiar, you’ve likely experienced dry eye before. It’s a common eye condition caused by an issue with your tear production. Either your eye stops producing enough tears, or the tears produced aren’t able to do their job. Unfortunately, dry eye is a chronic condition—so if you’ve had it once, you are likely to have it again in the future.
What Causes Dry Eyes?
Your eyes are protected by a thin layer of fluid known as the tear film. This acts as a defensive shield to keep the surface of your eyes smooth and clear while providing hydration. This film, though, isn’t always perfect. When it’s disrupted it can lead to dry eyes.
This tear film has a layer of oils protecting the outside of it. These oils stop the tear from evaporating too quickly while keeping the surface smooth, and are produced in the meibomian glands—tiny glands located near the edge of the eyelid. If they become blocked, slowed, or impacted in any way, they can’t produce the necessary oils. This leads to the tear evaporating too quickly, leaving the eye vulnerable and dry. This is called “meibomian gland dysfunction“
This is one of the most common causes of dry eye, but it isn’t the only cause. Dry eye can also be caused by:
- Age, due to your eyes producing less tears as you grow older
- Medical conditions, including diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or thyroid-related problems
- Antihistamines, blood pressure medications, and some antidepressants
- An extremely windy, smoky, or dry environment
If a situation causes your eyes to have to work harder to properly do their job, it often will lead to dry eyes developing. It’s almost like a sign that your eyes are working too hard to protect themselves from the environment.
Can Dry Eye Make You Go Blind?
Dry eye can be extremely uncomfortable and irritating, leaving your eyes exposed to the outside environment. When there are no tears protecting the surface, the eye is vulnerable to damage.
This can occur because the eye isn’t protected anymore, which leaves it vulnerable to scratching and scarring. In extreme situations, it can lead to blindness—but it’s worth noting that this is extremely rare. Dry eye will very, very rarely lead to long-term damage to your vision. Instead, it’s much more likely to cause:
- Stinging or burning in the eyes
- Redness and swelling around the eyes
- Blurred vision
- Increased sensitivity to light
- Eye fatigue or tiredness
- A sensation of dryness or discomfort
- Difficulty with nighttime driving due to glare
- Excessively watery eyes, as your eyes try to compensate for the dryness.
These effects can have a significant impact on your life, making it essential to seek treatment.
How Is Dry Eye Treated?
Almost every form of dry eye therapy aims to restore or maintain the normal balance of tears your eye needs to function properly. Some therapies aim to alleviate symptoms, while others address the root cause of the problem.
It starts with a visit to your optometrist. They’ll perform a thorough assessment of your eyes to determine what form of treatment will be appropriate for your situation. They’ll typically recommend one or more of the following:
- Over-the-counter eye drops or artificial tears to stimulate your natural tears
- Prescription medication
- Warm compresses or eye masks
- Scleral Lenses, a kind of specialty contact shaped to trap the tears on the surface of the eye and keep it hydrated
- Lifestyle changes, like adjusting your diet for improved vitamins and nutrition or installing a humidifier in your home
Sometimes, these treatments aren’t enough, though. Your optometrist may recommend an in-office form of dry eye therapy, like the iLux® treatment.
How Does iLux® Work?
Remember: dry eye is often caused by a problem with the meibomian gland. If your optometrist believes this is the cause of your dry eyes, they’ll likely recommend iLux®.
ILux® is a handheld device that delivers light-based heat to the meibomian glands and surrounding areas. It warms the blocked glands, allowing them to soften the oils and release them properly. ILux® stimulates the area to restore its natural function.
It’s an excellent approach since it’s entirely noninvasive and non-surgical. It’s a quick in-office procedure that can bring almost immediate relief.
Should I Try iLux®?
If you’re struggling with dry eye, come visit us at Focus West Optometry. We can provide a proper diagnosis for your dry eyes and recommend an appropriate treatment here in Calgary. We’re here to help you navigate your treatment options, so book an appointment today to find relief from your dry eyes.