What is it?

Dry eye syndrome develops when the number or function of teardrops is inadequate and results in an unstable layer on the ocular surface. Dryness of the ocular surface interferes with optical capability and the protective function of the ocular surface of the eye. Dry eye syndrome is a disease with many causes that significantly reduces quality of life and can lead to stress.

Common causes of dry eye syndrome

The most common causes of dry eye syndrome in younger people are environmental, like air conditioning, poor humidity in the working environment, contact lenses, excessive close-up work (including computer work) and the resulting lack of blinking. Ocular surface dryness occurs more after refractive surgery as well.  The syndrome can be caused by hormonal changes during pregnancy, breast-feeding, use of contraceptives and menopause. The most common causes in people over 50 years of age are associated with a decrease in tear production, eyelid gland dysfunction and postoperative corneal changes. Less frequent causes in older and younger people include the autoimmune disease Sjögren’s syndrome, scarring of the mucous membrane, vitamin A deficiency and eyelid position disorders.

How can you recognise it?

Dry eye complaints are individual, independent of age and give an indication of the severity of the disease. Symptoms include a feeling of roughness, foreign body, tiredness or pain in the eye, itching, tenderness and agitation, a burning sensation, blurred vision (which blinking and artificial tears relieve), watering of the eyes (especially in the wind), red eyes, frequent blinking, sensitivity to light and headaches.

Why shouldn’t complaints associated with dry eye syndrome be ignored? What may be the consequences?

When the composition of tear film is disrupted, the protective function of the eye no longer works properly. Without treatment, the syndrome may result in undesirable complications like chronic inflammation of the eyelid or the eye, corneal ulceration or persistent decay in vision.