Let’s face it: We often take our eyes for granted. In fact, when we are able to see clearly and don't feel any discomfort, we usually don’t give them a second thought. But there are times when they make their presence known — and your life miserable — particularly if you’ve encountered a condition known as dry eye. The symptoms of dry eye are vast, ranging from pretty unpleasant to just plain painful. Irritation, a gritty or burning feeling, excess watering, and blurred vision are just a few you may notice.
The minute you blink, a film of tears unfurls over the eye, ensuring that the surface of the eye remains smooth and flawless. Without this tear film, good vision is impossible and dry eye symptoms are probable.
The tear film is made up of three layers:
- An oily layer (lipid)
- A watery layer (aqueous)
- A layer of mucus (mucin)
Each layer has its own function. The oily layer, generated by the meibomian glands, forms the outermost surface of the tear film. Its main purpose is to smooth the tear surface and decrease the evaporation of tears. The middle watery layer makes up a great amount of what we generally imagine as tears. This layer is created by the lacrimal glands in the eyelids, cleanses the eye, and washes away external particles or nuisances. The inner layer, composed of mucus produced by the conjunctiva, permits the watery layer to spread evenly over the outer layer of the eye and helps the eye stay moist and comfortable. Without mucus, tears will not stay on the eyeball and will instead fall onto the cheeks.
In an ideal word, our eyes work like a smooth, well-oiled machine. Tears, including all three ayers, play the part of lubricant. The layer which is closest to the cornea is a thin mucus that supports tear adhesion to the surface. The middle layer holds the watery portion of the tears. The outer layer is made up of fatty oils. An appropriate mix helps maintain healthy tears, which coat and lubricate the eyes, nourish cells, wash-down dust and other irritants to ward off infection and keep the surface smooth so you can see clearly.
There are hundreds of different treatments for dry eyes depending on what form of dry eye you have and depending on what’s causing your specific dry eye disease. Below, we’ll dive into a little more about what dry eye disease actually is, the symptoms to be aware of, the risk factors, and a few of these treatment options.