The bright sparkle in someone’s eyes is more than just a reflection of one’s wit or intelligence. Rather it’s literal reflection or lustre of the smooth tear film coating the cornea. The description of a ‘rheumy’ eye refers to a loss of this smooth reflection and perhaps surrounding reflection.
If you have red, gritty eyes and intermittently blurry vision, this could be due to dry eye syndrome.
You should be examined to detect and treat the causes and symptoms of dry eyes. It’s usually not serious and the condition is responsive to maintenance treatment.
The ecosystem of the front of the eye
The tear film is the wet layer on the front surface, especially the cornea. It is part of a delicate eco-system at the front of the eye. The components of this eco-system are:
- The corneal epithelial (or lining) cells, support the tears
- The goblet cells of the conjunctiva, which is the lining layer on the white part of the eye and the back surface of the eyelids, manufactures both the aqueous or watery component of the tears and the mucous
- The eyelid glands, known as Meibomian glands which manufacture the oily surface coating, which like an oil slick on the surface of a puddle, slow evaporation
- The mechanical action of blinking spreads tears evenly onto the cornea.
- In between blinks, the tear film evaporates with exposure to air and therefore needs to be constantly replenished
Why an intact tear film is important
- Clarity of vision.
- Ocular comfort
- Nutrition of the cornea
- Mechanical and immunological protection of the cornea
An imbalance in the front of the eye can cause:
- Grittiness or foreign body sensation
- Intermittent blurring of vision
- A tendency to develop recurrent conjunctivitis due to infection
This group of symptoms is often referred to by the collective term of ‘dry eye syndrome’.
Factors that may cause dry eyes
- Diseases, including allergy involving the cornea, eyelids or conjunctiva
- Increasing age
- Hormonal status
- Skin disease
- Certain drugs
- Infrequent blinking during prolonged computer use
- Wind or air-conditioning
Treatment of Dry Eyes
In most cases, the treatment involves addressing any of the underlying conditions, including decreasing inflammation, as well as the application of products to replace the missing fluid.
It is important you have your eyes examined to ensure that the dry eyes aren’t a symptom of something more serious.