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Dry Eyes and Ocular surface Inflammation


What are DRY EYES?

The tear film is composed of three layers: the lipid (oily) layer, aqueous (watery) layer, and mucin (mucus) layer. Any imbalance or deficiency in these layers can lead to tear film instability. This instability can result in increased evaporation, poor lubrication of the ocular surface, and inadequate protection of the cornea, causing dry eye symptoms.


DEWS II Report was published by the Tear Film Ocular Surface Dry Eye Workshop (TFOS) in 2017 and it introduced a new definition of dry eye as a “multifactorial disease of the ocular surface characterized by a loss of homeostasis of the tear film, and accompanied by ocular symptoms, in which tear film instability and hyperosmolarity, ocular surface inflammation and damage, and neurosensory abnormalities play etiological roles”.

The report proposes a classification system that categorizes dry eye into two main categories: reduced tear producing (Aqueous-deficient) dry eye and high tear breaking (Evaporative) dry eye. This classification helps in understanding the underlying mechanisms and tailoring treatment approaches.


The report provides updated insights into the underlying causes of dry eye disease, including inflammation, meibomian gland dysfunction, neurosensory abnormalities, and environmental factors. It highlights the complex interplay between these factors in the development of the disease.  Therefore, based on the underlying causes an individualized and stepwise approach to dry eye management was proposed. It recommended a combination of patient education, environmental modifications, artificial tear supplements, anti-inflammatory agents, and other interventions based on the underlying cause and severity of the disease.


Future Directions: The report identifies areas for further research and advancements in understanding and treating dry eye disease. It emphasizes the need for better standardization of diagnostic criteria, development of new therapies, and exploration of personalized medicine approaches.

What are the signs and symptoms of Dry Eyes?









Dry eye disease can present with a variety of signs and symptoms that can vary in severity and duration. Here are the common signs and symptoms associated with dry eyes:


  1. Eye discomfort: Patients with dry eyes often experience discomfort, which can manifest as a persistent sensation of dryness, grittiness, or itchiness in the eyes. This discomfort may worsen throughout the day or in certain environments, such as air-conditioned rooms or windy conditions or in winters.

  2. Eye redness: The eyes may appear red or bloodshot, indicating inflammation of the ocular surface due to dryness. Redness can be intermittent or chronic and may be more noticeable after prolonged periods of visual concentration or exposure to dry environments.

  3. Blurred or fluctuating vision: Dry eyes can cause visual disturbances, such as blurred vision or fluctuations in vision clarity. This can be particularly noticeable during activities that require sustained visual focus, like reading or using digital screens.

  4. Sensitivity to light: Dry eyes can lead to increased sensitivity to light, a condition called photophobia. Patients may experience discomfort or pain when exposed to bright lights or sunlight, leading them to squint or seek shade.

  5. Excessive tearing: Paradoxically, dry eye disease can cause excessive tearing. This happens as a reflex response of the eyes to compensate for the lack of sufficient lubrication. However, the tears produced in these cases may be of poor quality and evaporate quickly, providing only temporary relief.

  6. Foreign body sensation: Patients may describe feeling as if there is a foreign object or particle in the eye, causing irritation and discomfort. This sensation can be persistent and may worsen during activities that require eye movement or blinking.

  7. Eye fatigue: Dry eyes can contribute to eye fatigue or a sensation of tiredness in the eyes, especially after prolonged visual tasks or activities that require focused attention.

  8. Discomfort with contact lenses: Individuals who wear contact lenses may experience increased discomfort or intolerance to lens wear due to insufficient tear film and lubrication.

What are various treatment strategies for Dry Eyes?

Dry eye treatment strategies aim to alleviate symptoms, improve tear film stability, and promote ocular surface health. The choice of treatment depends on the severity of the condition and underlying causes. Here are various treatment strategies for dry eyes:


  1. Artificial Tears: Lubricating eye drops, also known as artificial tears, are a common first-line treatment for mild to moderate dry eyes. They provide temporary relief by supplementing the natural tear film and helping to moisturize the ocular surface. These drops are available over-the-counter and come in different formulations (preservative-free, gel, or ointment) depending on individual needs.

  2. Prescription Medications: In cases of moderate to severe dry eyes, prescription medications may be recommended. These can include anti-inflammatory eye drops, such as cyclosporine or lifitegrast, which help reduce inflammation and improve tear production. Steroid eye drops may also be used for short-term relief during flare-ups, but long-term use carries potential side effects.

  3. Tear Conservation: Tear conservation techniques aim to reduce tear drainage from the eyes, increasing tear film stability. This can be achieved through the insertion of punctal plugs or by cauterizing the tear drainage ducts (punctal occlusion) to prevent tears from draining too quickly.

  4. Meibomian Gland Treatment: For dry eyes caused by meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD), therapies targeting the meibomian glands may be effective. Warm compresses, eyelid hygiene (lid scrubs), and gentle massage can help improve the flow of meibum and clear gland blockages. In some cases, meibomian gland expression or meibomian gland probing may be performed by an eye care professional.

  5. Environmental Modifications: Making changes to the surrounding environment can help manage dry eyes. Increasing humidity levels with a humidifier, avoiding direct airflow from fans or vents, and using protective eyewear (e.g., wraparound sunglasses) in windy or dusty conditions can reduce evaporation and irritation.

  6. Lifestyle Modifications: Certain lifestyle adjustments can provide relief for dry eyes. These include taking regular breaks during activities that require intense visual focus (such as computer work), practicing the 20-20-20 rule (looking away from the screen every 20 minutes for 20 seconds at an object 20 feet away), maintaining proper hydration, and avoiding smoke or other irritants.

  7. Nutritional Supplements: Omega-3 fatty acid supplements, such as fish oil or flaxseed oil, may have anti-inflammatory properties and can help improve the quality of the tear film. However, it's important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any supplements.

  8. Treatment of Underlying Conditions: If dry eyes are associated with underlying conditions like Sjögren's syndrome or systemic diseases, managing the primary condition may alleviate dry eye symptoms.

It's important to consult with an eye care professional for a proper diagnosis and personalized treatment plan tailored to your specific needs. They can determine the best combination of treatments to alleviate your dry eye symptoms and improve ocular surface health.

Can Contact Lenses (CL) be worn in Dry Eyes?





Wearing contact lenses in the presence of dry eyes can be challenging, as dry eyes can lead to discomfort, lens intolerance, and potential complications. However, in many cases, it is possible to wear contact lenses with proper management and care. Here are some considerations for wearing contact lenses in dry eyes:


  1. Consult with an Eye Care Professional: It is essential to consult with an eye care professional, such as an CL dispensing optometrist or ophthalmologist specialising in Cornea and External Eye disease, who can assess your dry eye condition and determine if contact lens wear is suitable for you. There are various conditions which may impede your tolerance to CLs in the eye.

  2. Choose the Right Contact Lens Type: Certain types of contact lenses may be more suitable for individuals with dry eyes. Silicone hydrogel lenses are known for their high oxygen permeability (ability to breathe through the contact lens) , which can help maintain corneal health and reduce discomfort. These lenses are often more breathable and retain moisture better than traditional hydrogel lenses.

  3. Consider Daily Disposable Lenses: Daily disposable contact lenses are often recommended for individuals with dry eyes. These lenses are discarded after each use, reducing the risk of lens deposits and contamination. They can provide a fresh, clean lens surface for each wear, minimizing the potential for irritation.

  4. Lubricating Eye Drops: Using lubricating eye drops (artificial tears) can help alleviate dryness and provide additional moisture while wearing contact lenses. It is important to choose preservative-free eye drops that are compatible with contact lens wear and follow the recommended usage guidelines.

  5. Proper Lens Hygiene and Limit the wear time: Maintaining good contact lens hygiene is crucial for individuals with dry eyes. Follow proper cleaning and disinfection routines as recommended by your eye care professional to minimize the risk of infections and lens-related complications. Please do not sleep or shower in your lenses. It may be beneficial to limit the duration of contact lens wear. Shorter periods of wear, especially during activities that exacerbate dryness (such as extended digital device use), can help reduce discomfort and minimize the risk of complications.

  6. Regular Follow-up Examinations: Individuals with dry eyes who wear contact lenses should schedule regular follow-up examinations with their Contact Lens Dispensing Optometrist. This allows monitoring of the ocular surface health, evaluation of lens fit, and adjustment of the contact lens type or care regimen if needed.

What is IPL therapy for Dry Eyes?











IPL therapy, which stands for Intense Pulsed Light therapy, is a relatively new treatment option for individuals suffering from dry eyes, particularly those with meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD). MGD is a common cause of evaporative dry eye, where the meibomian glands in the eyelids don't produce enough or good-quality lipids (oils) for the tear film, leading to tear evaporation and dryness.

IPL therapy was originally developed as a dermatological treatment for various skin conditions, such as rosacea and photodamage. However, it was later discovered that IPL can also be beneficial for managing certain ocular conditions, including dry eye disease with MGD.

The procedure involves using a handheld device that emits pulses of broad-spectrum light, which targets the blood vessels around the eyelids. The wavelengths of light used in IPL therapy are carefully selected to be absorbed by the blood vessels, leading to a controlled heating effect. This controlled heat stimulates the meibomian glands, liquefying any thickened meibum and unblocking clogged glands. As a result, the glands can then produce and release healthier lipids, improving the composition of the tear film and reducing tear evaporation.

The benefits of IPL therapy for dry eyes include:

  1. Improved Meibomian Gland Function: By targeting the meibomian glands, IPL therapy helps to restore their functionality, which is essential for producing a healthy lipid layer in the tear film.

  2. Increased Tear Film Stability: With healthier lipids being produced, the tear film becomes more stable, reducing the rate of tear evaporation and promoting better lubrication of the ocular surface.

  3. Potential Relief from Dry Eye Symptoms: Many individuals with dry eyes, especially those with MGD, experience relief from symptoms such as eye discomfort, dryness, redness, and blurry vision after undergoing a series of IPL treatments.

  4. Minimally Invasive: IPL therapy is considered a minimally invasive procedure, as it does not require any incisions or surgery.

  5. Non-pharmaceutical Approach: IPL therapy provides an alternative treatment option for individuals who may not respond well to or prefer to avoid pharmaceutical interventions.

It's important to note that IPL therapy for dry eyes should be performed by a trained and experienced eye care professional, typically an ophthalmologist or optometrist, who has expertise in using IPL devices for ocular conditions. The number of IPL sessions required may vary depending on the severity of the condition and the individual's response to treatment.

As with any medical procedure, there are potential risks and contraindications for IPL therapy, so it is essential to undergo a thorough evaluation and discuss the treatment's suitability with an eye care specialist before proceeding.

What are potential risks of IPL therapy?

While IPL therapy can be an effective treatment option for certain conditions, including dry eyes with meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD), there are potential risks and side effects associated with the procedure. It is essential to be aware of these risks and to have a thorough discussion with a qualified eye care professional before undergoing IPL therapy. Some potential risks of IPL therapy include:

  1. Eye Irritation: After the procedure, some individuals may experience mild to moderate eye irritation, including a sensation of burning, stinging, or discomfort in and around the eyes. This typically resolves within a few hours to a day after treatment.

  2. Redness and Swelling: Some patients may experience temporary redness and swelling of the eyelids following IPL therapy. This is usually a normal reaction to the treatment and should subside within a few days.

  3. Light Sensitivity (Photophobia): IPL therapy involves exposure to intense light pulses, which may lead to increased sensitivity to light (photophobia) immediately after the procedure. This sensitivity should resolve within a few hours.

  4. Skin Discoloration: While IPL therapy is primarily targeted at the blood vessels around the eyelids, there is a slight risk of temporary skin discoloration, such as darkening or lightening of the treated area.

  5. Bruising or Petechiae: In some cases, small bruises or petechiae (tiny red or purple spots) may appear on the skin around the eyes after IPL therapy. These usually fade over time.

  6. Eye Infection: Although rare, there is a risk of eye infection associated with any procedure involving the eye area. It is crucial to follow proper hygiene protocols and ensure the IPL device is appropriately sterilized.

  7. Corneal Injury: The IPL procedure involves protecting the eyes with eye shields, but there is still a very slight risk of accidental injury to the cornea (the clear front surface of the eye) during treatment.

  8. Ineffectiveness: While IPL therapy has shown promising results for some individuals with dry eyes and MGD, it may not be effective for everyone. Response to treatment can vary depending on individual factors, and some patients may not experience significant improvement in their symptoms.

It is essential to have a comprehensive eye evaluation and discuss your medical history with a qualified eye care professional before considering IPL therapy. They will assess your suitability for the procedure, inform you of the potential risks, and discuss alternative treatment options if IPL therapy is not appropriate for your specific case.


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