If you've lived in Calgary for more than a few days you are well aware that we live in an incredibly dry province. While I love chinook winds as much as the next person they definitely dry things out such as your skin, your mouth and of course your eyes. Dry eye feels like it should be a simple thing. Your eyes are dry so you need to add moisture, right? Unfortunately, dry eye is a complex and multifactorial issue that can be a challenge to deal with.
To understand dry eye you have to understand tears. Our tears are not just water. There are actually three different layers to our tear film! The layer closest to our eye is a mucous layer that helps sweep capture and sweep debris from our eyes. The next layer is the main, watery layer we're all familiar with. Finally the outermost layer is an oily layer that helps keep our tears from evaporating.
All of these different tear layers need to be present and in a proper balance to prevent dryness and irritation. The amount and quality of tears produced can be affected by many things such as certain diseases, increasing age, being female, some medications and of course your environment.
As you can imagine with so many different factors there are many different types of dry eye. The two main types of dry eye occur when either not enough of the outer oily layer is produced so the watery layer evaporates (creatively called evaporative dry eye) or that not enough of the watery middle layer is produced which we call aqueous deficient dry eye.
There are different treatments for different types of dry eye and for different levels of dryness. My job is to figure out which type of dry eye you have and its severity and treat you appropriately. While artificial tears (eye drops) are required in almost all types of dry eye different artificial tears will work better for certain types of dryness than others and often will not be enough to deal with all of your symptoms.
If you are experiencing dry eye I would strongly encourage you to come and have your eyes checked. Chronic dry eye creates a nasty feedback loop causing your eyes to get drier and drier over time unless you intervene.
There is a lot more to know about dry eye. Stay tuned for future blogs about the types of dry eye, what makes it worse and how we treat your eyes.