dry eye is a chronic and multifactorial disease (many causes, many factors) that affects almost 30% of the adult population, that is, over 15 years of age. Among the elderly, its prevalence is almost total.
Dry eye is therefore a fairly common disease, although their degrees of affectation are also very diverse and it is not always chronic, since in some cases it is due to rectifiable deficiencies and does not have endogenous causes.
In any case, we already commented on the existence of dry eye disorder in our article Having surgery for myopia with a laser: what risks does it entail, where we explained that this disease in its chronic aspect was one of the most frequent collateral effects of the intervention.
The tear, a complex liquid
Tears are not just water with salt, but something much more complex whose purpose is to protect the surface of the cornea from external agents, as well as from rubbing against the eyelid.
The tear is a lubricating agent, one more mucosa of the body. It is generated in the lacrimal glands and is completed in the Meibomian glands, which add lipid elements to the liquid that will give it a more greasy and adherent consistency.
Thus, after being secreted, the tear spreads over the surface of the cornea thanks to the action of the eyelid, covering the eye. In its deepest layer, the one that contacts the corneal epithelium, that is, with the first layer of the cornea, it is a mucilaginous substancelike gelatin, which becomes more watery as it becomes more superficial, and which ends in the outermost layer with the lipid matter of the Meibomian glands.
Is lipid layer It is essentially based on omega 3 fatty acids and its function is both to give consistency to the tear layer on the eye, preventing it from spilling, and to stop the evaporation of the immediately preceding aqueous layer.
In this way, the cornea is always kept lubricated by providing consistent tears and is protected from friction, the action of the sun, dust, etc. If the tear is defective or produced insufficiently, we will suffer from dry eye or xerophthalmia.
Causes of dry eye
If the lipid layer is poor or deficient, either due to a lack of omega 3 in the diet or due to a meibomian gland defectthe water in the tear evaporates too quickly, so that there is no time to replenish it efficiently and therefore the eye is dry, red, itchy and can even present erosions with wounds and even infections.
In this case the cause is partially solvable with a diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids. Another assumption is lack of vitamin A or retinolin which the dry eye is partially or totally reversible by correcting the diet.
It is also caused by excessively dry environments for reasons such as air conditioning or heating. Dry eye can also occur at puberty in women that passes over time, and in the same way it can return at menopause as a chronic disorder.
Another cause is, as has been said, myopia laser operations in which it is believed that the heat of the beam may damage the glands in some way. Other causes may be age, which makes the tear less and less efficient, as well as the use of certain antidepressant or anthistamine medications.
It is also favored by the use of contact lenses, as well as by autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia or Sjörgren’s syndrome.
Dry eye increases with the use of screens
And also, as explained by the Spanish Society of Ophthalmology (SEO) on its informative page, the use of display screens, that is, computers, mobile phones, etc., is one of the many causes of this syndrome.
According to Dr. Nicolás Alejandre Alba, head of the Cornea and Ocular Surface Section of the Ophthalmology Service of the Jimenez Diaz Foundationthis is mainly due “to the fact that when we fix our attention on the computer screen, our blink rate decreases a lot and increases the evaporation of the tear”.
The normal blink rate is estimated to range from 15 times per minutewhile if we are in front of a screen we usually do it between five and seven times a minute.
For his part, the specialist doctor in Ophthalmology Rubén Pascual explains in this chapter of his Ocularis podcast that electronic devices are not harmless from the point of view of visual health, but not because of the light they emit but because of the misuse we make of them, since we do not always use them in the right conditions.
These suitable conditions are less common at home than in the office and include everything from poor workspace lighting at a bad distance to the screen (usually too close) or a bad modulation of the screen brightness.
According to data from the National Association of United Optometristspeople under 30 years of age spend more than ten hours a day in front of a screen and 80% of them have visual discomfort.
In this sense, it is estimated that 90% of people who spend three hours or more in front of a computer can develop the so-called Computer Visual Syndrome, one of whose most characteristic symptoms is dry eye.
To lessen it National College of Opticians-Optometrists of Spain (CNOO) He advises resting for five to ten minutes every hour, blinking regularly, and closing your eyes or looking from left to right. Also the use of eye lubricants.
dry eye symptoms
The symptoms of dry eye can be several, but the main ones are:
- Redness of the eyeballs
- Sensation of having something in the eye
- Constant tearing in response to insufficient lubrication
- Irritation and gritty sensation when blinking.
- eye strain
- fluctuating vision
How to treat dry eye
Xerophthalmia can have a good response in its early stages with corticosteroidsbut in the case of its chronic aspect, it will be necessary to carry out semi-annual controls accompanied by home care.
In this sense it is important a diet in omega 3 fatty acids, the use of anti-inflammatory medications supervised by the doctor and an exquisite hygiene of the eye and the eyelid in order to avoid infections. It is practiced with special soaps and wipes.
Also works artificial tear application expressly created for ocular lubrication, as well as making visual breaks every twenty minutes in which we will close our eyes for a few minutes.
Finally we will avoid the habit of rub our eyes if we have itching and above all we will try not to spend too much time immersed in excessively dry environments.
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