Dry eye is the condition of having an unhealthy tear film on the eyes. Dry eyes may result in blurry vision and excessive blinking, which interfere with active focus, so dry eye must be treated before proceeding with active focus. Dry eye is most effectively treated with a visit to an eye care professional.
A high-quality tear film is formed with three layers:
- The lipid layer at the top
- The aqueous layer in the middle
- The mucosal layer at the bottom
If the body does not produce enough of each of these layers, a range of dry eye symptoms could result. Dry eye syndrome can happen even if the eyes feel wet, because of dysfunction of any of the tear layers.
Causes and solutions
Eye drops can provide temporary relief of dry eye symptoms. Eye care professionals can identify which tear layers are unhealthy, and they may recommend or prescribe eye drops that target the problematic tear layer. However, eye drops may not address the core cause of dry eye syndrome. Eye drops should be used until the cause of dry eye has been resolved.
Meibomian glands, located under the eyelids, produce the lipid tear layer. Under-stimulated meibomian glands may become clogged, no longer releasing lipids onto the surface of the eye. Meibomian gland dysfunction will cause evaporation of the lower tear layers. If meibomian gland dysfunction is left untreated, the glands may begin to atrophy.
The meibomian glands are stimulated by blinking. People tend to blink less when stressed or when viewing television and computer screens, leading to under-stimulation of the glands. However, once the meibomian glands become clogged, stimulation may not be enough for the glands to release their product.
An eye care professional may be able to help with meibomian gland dysfunction with the use of specialized tools that un-clog the glands. In addition, meibomian gland dysfunction may be treatable at home. The dry eye sufferer can use a warm compress on their eyes to loosen the contents of the meibomian glands. Then, they can pinch the eyelids (carefully, to avoid harming the eye) to express the lipids from each gland.