July is Dry Eye Awareness Month. In honor of that, lets talk a bit about dry eye. Dry eye disease is prevalent all over the world and is reported to affect from 5% to 73% of the US population and affects women slightly more than men. You might already be wondering why such a wide disparity in dry eye reporting. It is because dry eye has never been well defined, well understood or effectively treated. It has always been considered to be chronic and unfixable. Does dry eye include redness, itching, burning or generalized inflammation? Does it occur in teenagers or the elderly? Is it just dryness or can it be watery eyes? The answer to the above questions is all of the above. And this is explains the side range of incidence…it depends on how you define it. Dry eye disease is an advanced stage of eyelid inflammation which exists in all of us to some degree. But the problem is that this biofilm-induced inflammation which usually starts in childhood, causes no acute symptoms until had effectively destroyed the glands that produce our tears. Loss of our tear-producing glands progresses slowly and imperceptibly until it is nearly too late to do anything about it. It is critically important that society realize that loss of our tear glands is very similar to losing our teeth without good oral hygiene. Plaque is essentially a biofilm of the mouth that needs to be cleaned off of the teeth regularly to prevent gingivitis and tooth loss. A biofilm also develops on the eyelid and will cause chronic eyelid inflammation (blepharitis) that destroys the tear glands. Good eyelid hygiene and lid margin cleaning by an eye doctor should begin in the teenage years and continue throughout life. Doing so should help prevent loss of the tear glands before it begins.
Once someone has dry eye they have already lost a significant portion of their tear glands. Treatment then requires regular and effective biofilm removal from all aspects of the eyelid. Currently there are only 2 centers in the country that are fixing this disease. One is in Brentwood and one in Atlanta…members of the Centers for Dry Eye.
This is the month to increase awareness that dry eye starts without symptoms, it can be prevented and yes, it can finally be cured.