Dry Eye Treatment – Tears from Heaven
Tears are so much more than just a physical expression of heightened emotion, in fact, there’s more than one type of tear; there’s actually three! Tears are produced by several glands in and around the eye including the lacrimal gland that sits between your eyeball and eyelid, and depending on the circumstances, your eye secretes three distinct types of tears: Basal tears; Reflex tears; and Psychic tears.
Basal tears are the tears we are producing all the time. Every time you blink your eye, tears spread across the surface of the eye, the cornea, lubricating the eye to keep it healthy, and washing away any foreign matter, keeping the surface of your eye smooth and clear.
Reflex tears are produced specifically to wash away harmful irritants, such as smoke, or as we are all familiar, onion fumes. Reflex tears are produced in much larger amounts than basal tears, the intent being to wash out the eye quickly and efficiently, and they are presumed to contain antibodies that can help fight bacteria.
The third type of tear is the Psychic tear. Psychic tears are sometimes called “crying tears,” because, these are the tears we cry when we experience a heightened and intense emotion, be it sadness or joy. Psychic tears contain a natural painkiller called leucine enkephalin, thus we tend to feel a little bit better after we cry.
All three types of tears contain different molecules, different proteins, and serve different purposes. They are all entirely necessary, but what it there is an issue with one or more of the glands in your eye that produce tears, and you’re not producing enough?
Dry Your Eyes, Play Your Song Out…
Dry eye is what we call the condition when a person is not producing enough tears to adequately lubricate and nourish the eye to keep it healthy. Dry eye is one of the most common eye conditions in the world, it can be a chronic, and usually effects people later in life as we all start to produce less tears.
Dry eye is fairly easy to recognize; as most of us are used to that healthy, well-lubricated feeling, it’s quite striking when your eyes start to bother you. Symptoms of dry eye include:
- Itchy eyes
- Heavy eyes
- Fatigued eyes
- Sore eyes
- Dryness sensation
- Red eyes
- Blurred vision
Not only are there three types of tears, but there are three vital components to our tears as well, each component produced by a different gland.
There is an oily component that is produced by meibomian glands in the eyelids that helps keep tears from evaporating too quickly. A watery component produced by the lacrimal glands located behind the upper eyelids. This component delivers much of the proteins, electrolytes, and liquidity of tears. And finally the mucin component produced by goblet cells that help spread the tears across the surface of the eye.
Dry eye is basically caused by a failure in the meibomian glands to function properly, thus the condition is technically called, meibomian gland dysfunction.
There are countless factors that can contribute to dry eye including aging, menopause, certain health conditions, excessive computer use, contact lenses, environmental influences, smoking, frequent flying, and more. Regardless of the cause, artificial tears, eye drops, medications, and behavioral changes can all be successful treatments for dry eye.
Treating The Tear Gland Itself
Meibomian gland dysfunction means the gland responsible for the oily component of your tears are less prevalent allowing your tears to evaporate too quickly. The meibomian gland itself can become blocked, or suffer some other abnormality, and as discussed earlier, some treatments can help prevent that evaporation artificially, or with medication, addressing the symptoms of the meibomian gland issue.
Today there is a new intervention that may go a step further by directly addressing the blockage itself and removing it. The LipiFlow® Thermal Pulsation System is purported to be a safe and effective means of addressing dry eye at the source, by physically removing the obstruction in the meibomian gland that is preventing it from optimal function.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of dry eye, especially if they have been persistent and you’ve been treating them topically or just dealing with it, make an appointment with your eye doctor to see if LipiFlow® or another intervention may be recommended.
It’s an emotional and exciting world out there, there shouldn’t be a dry eye in the house.