Dry Eye Syndrome, Symptoms, Causes & Treatment options by Dr Vanessa Neoh

Dry Eye Syndrome


Dry eyes are a common condition in which a person doesn’t have enough quality tears to lubricate and nourish the eye. People with dry eyes either do not produce enough tears or their tears are of a poor quality.


dry-eyes illustration

Tears are necessary for providing clear vision and maintaining the health of the front surface of the eye. Tears provide lubrication, wash away foreign matter in the eye, and help keep the surface of the eyes smooth and clear.


Signs and symptoms


Signs and symptoms, which usually affect both eyes, may include:

  • A stinging, burning or scratchy sensation in your eyes

  • Stringy mucus in or around your eyes

  • Sensitivity to light

  • Eye redness

  • A sensation of having something in your eyes

  • Difficulty wearing contact lenses

  • Difficulty with night time driving

  • Excess watering, which is the body’s response to the irritation of dry eyes

  • Blurred vision or eye fatigue

  • Advanced dry eyes may damage the front surface of the eye and caused impaired vision


What causes dry eyes?

Dry eyes can develop for many reasons, People with dry eyes either do not produce enough tears or their tears are of a poor quality:

  • Not enough tears. Tear production tends to diminish with age, with various medical conditions or as a side effect of certain medicines. Environmental conditions, such as wind and dry climates increase tear evaporation, hence decreasing tear volume causing dry eyes.

  • Poor quality of tears.Tears are made up of three layers: oil, water and mucus. If there is a deficiency in any of the three layers, dry eyes can develop. A smooth oil layer helps prevent evaporation of the water layer, while the mucin layer spreads the tears evenly over the surface of the eye. The most common form of dry eyes occurs when the water layer of tears is inadequate. This condition, called keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS).

Common causes of decreased tear production include:

  • Aging. Most people above 65 experience some symptoms of dry eyes

  • Certain medical conditions. People with diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma, thyroid disorders and vitamin A deficiency tend to experience dry eyes

  • Certain medications. This includes antihistamines, decongestants, hormone replacement therapy, antidepressants, blood pressure medication and birth control medications.

  • Environment. You may experience dry eyes in certain situations, such as on an airplane, in an air-conditioned room, while riding a bike or after looking at a computer screen for a few hours because you do not blink regularly.

  • Gender. Women are more likely to develop dry eyes due to hormone changes

  • Other factors. Lasik eye surgery and long term use of contact lenses can contribute to dry eyes.


How are dry eyes treated?

What is prescribed depends on the severity and cause of your dry eye. If you have occasional or mild dry eye symptoms, over-the-counter eyedrops or artificial tears are sufficient. However, if your dry eye is more severe, you would have to focus on other treatment options which your doctor will advise you accordingly.

Asian dry eye lubrication  with artificial tear drops

Some treatments focus on reversing or managing a condition or factor that’s causing your dry eyes by adding tears, conserving tears or increasing tear production. Other treatments can improve your tear quality or stop your tears from quickly draining away from your eyes.

  • Adding tears.Mild cases of dry eyes can often be managed using  artificial tear solutions. These can be used as often as needed to supplement natural tear production.

    People with dry eyes that don’t respond to artificial tears alone will need to take additional steps to treat their dry eyes.

  • Conserving tears.Keeping natural tears in the eyes longer can reduce the symptoms of dry eyes. This can be done by blocking or closing the tear ducts. The tear ducts can be blocked with tiny silicone or gel-like plugs that can be removed, if required. Or a surgical procedure can permanently close the tear ducts.

  • Increasing tear production.Your doctor can prescribe eye drops that increase tear production.

  • Treating the eye surface inflammation.

    Drugs to reduce eyelid inflammation. Inflammation along the edge of your eyelids can keep oil glands from secreting oil into your tears. Antibiotics may be prescribed to reduce inflammation. Antibiotics for dry eyes are usually taken by mouth, though some are used as eyedrops or ointments.

    Eyedrops to control cornea inflammation. Inflammation on the surface of your eyes (cornea) may be controlled with prescription eyedrops that contain the immune-suppressing medication cyclosporine (Restasis) or corticosteroids. Corticosteroids are not ideal for long-term use due to possible side effects.

  • Other treatments

    • Using special contact lenses. Your doctor will prescribe the right contact lenses for you if you experience dry eyes.

    • Unblocking oil glands. Dry eyes caused by blocked oil glands may be helped by treatment.

Home Care and Lifestyle Changes

You can take the following steps to reduce symptoms of dry eyes at home:

  • Blink! Remember to blink regularly when reading or staring at a computer screen for long periods of time.

  • Use a humidifier to increase the humidity in the air at work and at home.

  • Wear sunglasses outdoors, particularly those with wraparound frames, to reduce exposure to drying winds and the sun.

  • Most people take omega-3 fatty acid supplement that helps with tear production.

  • Drink plenty of water. Approximately 8-10 glasses a day.

For people with blepharitis and other conditions that cause eyelid inflammation that blocks the flow of oil to the eye, frequent and gentle eyelid washing may help. To wash your eyelids:

  • Apply a warm washcloth to your eyes.Wet a clean cloth with warm water. Hold the cloth over your eyes for five minutes. Repeat once it cools.

  • Use a mild soap on your eyelids.Use baby shampoo or another mild soap. Gently massage your closed eyes near the base of your eyelashes. Rinse completely.

If you feel that you’ve had prolonged signs and symptoms of dry eyes, including red, irritated, tired or painful eyes, we will be happy to meet with you for a private consultation.


At this visit, Dr Vanessa will be able to give you a clearer idea of what results you might expect, based on your unique condition and specific needs.

You can also fill out the form or book an appointment on the Contact Us page, and we will contact you as quickly as possible.


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