Tears are composed of three layers. The mucus layer coats the cornea, the clear outer window of the eye, forming a foundation so the tear film can adhere to the eye. The middle aqueous layer provides moisture and supplies oxygen and other important nutrients to the cornea. This layer is made of 98 percent water along with small amounts of salt, proteins, and other compounds. The outer lipid layer is an oily film that seals the tear film on the eye and helps to prevent evaporation. Tears are formed in several glands around the eye. The water layer is produced in the lacrimal gland, located under the upper eyelid. Several smaller glands in the lids make the oil and mucus layers. With each blink, the eyelids spread the tears over the eye.
Excess tears flow into two tiny drainage ducts in the corner of the eye by the nose. These ducts lead to tiny canals that connect to the nasal passage. The connection between the tear ducts and the nasal passage is the reason that crying causes a runny nose. In addition to lubricating the eye, tears are also produced as a reflex response to outside stimuli such as an injury or emotion. However, reflex tears do little to soothe a dry eye, which is why someone with watery eyes may still complain of irritation, and symptoms of tearing can more than likely be those associated with a dry eye. Dry eye syndrome has many causes. One of the most common reasons for dryness is simply the normal aging process. As we grow older, our bodies produce less oil; 60% less at age 65 than at age 18. This is more pronounced in women, who tend to have drier skin than men.
Oil deficiency also affects the tear film. Without as much oil to seal the watery layer, the tear film evaporates much faster, leaving dry areas on the cornea. Many other factors, such as hot, dry, or windy climates, high altitudes, air-conditioning, and cigarette smoke also cause dry eyes. Many people also find their eyes become irritated when reading or working on a computer. Stopping periodically to rest and blink keeps the eyes more comfortable. Working on a computer is one of the primary causes of Dry Eye! Contact lens wearers may also suffer from dryness because the contacts absorb the tears, causing proteins to form on the surface of the lens. Soft lenses need to maintain optimum hydration to give clarity and comfort during your wearing period. Certain medications, thyroid conditions, vitamin A deficiency, and diseases such as Parkinson's and Sjogren's can also cause dryness. Women frequently experience problems with dry eyes as they enter menopause because of hormonal changes.
Some of the symptoms of dry eye include itching, burning, irritation, redness, blurred vision that improves with blinking, excessive tearing, and increased discomfort after periods of reading, watching TV, or working on a computer.
If you think you are experiencing any of these symptoms of Dry Eye, call Dr. Weisfeld at 201.894.1400 to schedule a time to review your symptoms and see what options we can offer a personalized treatment regimen.