Dry eye syndrome is characterised by insufficient tears, it can be potentially debilitating condition. A person suffering from dry eye syndrome does not have enough of the right kind of tears to keep the eye comfortable. This can happen if they do not produce enough tears to keep the eye surface moist, or if for some reason the tears do not stay on the eyes long enough. Over time, the resulting dryness can damage the surface of the eyeball.

Dry eye can afflict anyone of any age, but is more common as we get older because we produce a smaller volume of tears. Some medications can trigger dry eye, as can some general health conditions. Dry eye is particularly common in postmenopausal women and people with arthritis.

  • ageing (tear production slows with advancing age)
  • menopause
  • medication, including oral contraceptives, antidepressants, antihistamines, diuretics and beta-blockers
  • climatic conditions, such as dry air and wind
  • irritants, such as cigarette smoke, dust or chemical exposure
  • any trauma to the eye (including burns)
  • infrequent or incomplete blinking
  • prolonged periods of time in front of a computer screen

Dry eye is diagnosed using a number of tests, including:

  • examination of the eye surface under a specially designed microscope (a slit lamp).
  • putting a drop of sodium fluorescein (a yellow dye) into the eyes. The dye mixes with the tears, allowing evaluation of the tear film.
  • strips of filter paper placed between the lower lid and eye to measure tear production.

Treatment options include eye drops, gels or ointments, otherwise known as artificial tears which your Optometrist can recommend to suit your needs.


Some people with dry eyes suffer from inflammation of the eyelids or blepharitis. In susceptible people, bacteria that normally live harmlessly on the skin can cause an infection of the eyelid margins. The result is crusting of the lashes/lid margins (particularly upon waking) and an itchy sensation. If left untreated, blepharitis can stimulate inflammation, causing the eyelids to become red, swollen and irritated. The inflammation can often disrupt normal tear production causing dry eye.

Although low-grade blepharitis is often a chronic condition, most cases respond well to appropriate management. Treatments include:

  • cleaning around lid margins with a cotton bud or clean face cloth and sterilid
  • eye drops (artificial tears) for the dry eyes
  • blephasteam – which one of our optometrists can recommend after assessment




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