What causes dry eye?

There are several things that can affect normal tear production in the eye.At any age, men or woman may experience symptoms of dry eye due to decreased tear production, increased tear evaporation, inflammation of the lids consistent with aging, environmental changes, contact lens wear or LASIK procedures, as well as certain medications. Systemic diseases, such as Sjogren’s Syndrome and autoimmune diseases, can also decrease the production and quality of tears. Dry eye is chronic and progressive ocular disease, which goes undiagnosed in many patients.

Not all dry eyes are the same.The tear film consists of three layers: an oily layer, a watery layer, and a layer of mucus. Disruption to any one of these layers can decrease the quality of the tears, and can cause discomfort, excess tearing, and poor vision.

It is important to follow up with your eye doctor to determine the exact cause of your dry eye, so that a specific treatment regimen can be made for you.

What are the symptoms of dry eye? The usual symptoms include:

 stinging or burning eyes

 excessive tearing

 sandy, gritty sensation in the eyes

 redness  irritation from wind and smoke  contact lens discomfort  discomfort post-LASIK surgery

Excessive tearing from dry eye may sound ironic; however, the body responses dryness by producing more tears. These tears are produced through a reflex and are not good quality tears, therefore, they only provide a temporary relief.The only way to reduce excess tearing is to treat the underlying dry eye condition.

The Dry Eye Center at Santamaria Eye Center has been created to help patients diagnose their type of dry eye, and create a specific treatment plan specialized to help their condition. An estimated 1 out of 5 adults are affected by dry eye syndrome, many of which go undiagnosed. The mission is to identify and treat dry eye in its earliest stages, as well as providing relief to patients with dry eye in its moderate and severe stages.

Treatment options include, but are not limited to lid hygiene, punctual plugs, vitamin therapy, and/or therapeutic drops.

Dr. Erica O’Lenick is an optometrist at Santamaria Eye Center.The practice has offices at 104 Market St., Perth Amboy (732-826-5159) and 100 Menlo Park Drive, Suite 408, Edison (732-767- 1850). For more information, visit www.santamariaeyecenter.com.