Dr. Nada Al Yousuf, Ophthalmology and LASIK Consultant at the King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Medical City University Medical Centre, confirmed that dry eye has become a widespread health issue, while warning against the serious complications which may affect vision due to changes in the quality of life and the frequent usage of smart devices.
“Tears are crucial for eye health and safety, providing moisture for the eye’s surface cells. Dry eyes may be associated with serious complications that may affect vision, such as bacterial infections and ulcers of the cornea, as tears are rich in antibacterial and antiviral substances that protect against infections,” she said. Dr Al Yousuf also cautioned against the excessive use of contact lenses and recommended cortisone drops.
“The symptoms of dry eye include stinging and burning sensations, a feeling of a foreign body in the eye, blurriness in vision, a feeling of heaviness in the eyelids, tiredness and fatigue, especially after long periods of reading or excessive usage of electronic devices, usually followed by the desire to rub the eyes and increase the secretion of tears after periods of dryness,” she explained.
Al Yousuf attributed dry eyes to lack of tear secretion by the tear glands due to ageing or the ingestion of some drugs such as anti-histamines, decongestants and antidepressants, in addition to medications for Parkinson’s disease, high blood pressure, some acne treatment, as well as contraceptives and therapeutic hormones.
Some autoimmune diseases, most prominently rheumatoid arthritis, may be accompanied by dry eyes as well as dry mouth, also thyroid diseases, vitamin A deficiency, and LASIK eye correction surgery. Research shows that nearly half of the patients undergoing laser vision correction have a degree of eye dryness after surgery.
The cause of dry eye is the lack of adhesion of tears to the surface of the eye due to shortage of the mucous layer, and consequent evaporation of tears from the surface of the eye. This results in imbalance in the rate of tear production and tear evaporation, with rapid tear evaporation in cases of exposure to dry air, smoke, extreme wind, or lack of involuntary blinking, usually during spells of concentration in reading or driving, or while using computers or smart devices.
Dr Al Yousuf called for the rapid diagnosis of dry eyes through a comprehensive eye examination. She also recommended simple steps to lessen the symptoms of dry eyes such as blinking longer from time to time while reading or using the computer, wearing sunglasses outdoors, avoiding direct air conditioning to the face, using moisturising drops, reducing usage of contact lenses and taking supplements containing essential fatty acids and Omega 3.