Tears: Natural and Artificial

Dry Eye and How it Affects You

Dry Eye is a condition where the tear film normally coating your eyes doesn’t have the right balance of components to allow the tears to do their job properly. Dry Eye is incredibly common, affecting up to 60% of the population over 50. Although the name doesn’t sound overly exciting, Dry Eye can cause quite significant pain or discomfort, often having a significant effect on one’s quality of vision.

Natural tears have many important roles, aside from showing that you have just watched a sad movie or stubbed your toe! Tears are important for providing the surface of your eye with water and oxygen to make sure the cells stay alive and healthy! They’re important for making sure that the surface of the eye is nice and smooth. If there are bumps or cracks or dry spots, it causes your vision to blur as if you were looking through a window in the rain. Tears help to wash away all of the dust and gunk that float around your everyday environment. If there were no tears to wash away the gunk, your eyes would always collect dust like window sills. Tears are also full of natural bacterial fighting enzymes to keep all the nasties away from your eye. 

Tear Components

The layers of the tears that need to be balanced are; 

  1. A mucous layer that acts like glue to stick the tears to the eye, 
  2. The main watery layer that is full of nutrients for hydrating and keeping the surface of the eye healthy, 
  3. The oil layer on the top to make sure that the watery layer does not evaporate or dry up in the wind.

You need all three layers to be present for the eye to feel comfortable and for all the important functions to occur. When layers are missing or the balance isn’t quite right, the eye gets upset, causing a range of symptoms, such as dryness, burning, a gritty feeling, heaviness, itchiness. Everyone seems to experience dryness differently. 

Artificial Tears

Artificial tear supplements are one of the treatments we can use for short term relief of these symptoms. Artificial tears often work by replacing components of the natural tears that are missing. Balancing up the layers can help to settle down a dry eye and reduce symptoms.

Systane ultra is a fantastic drop containing an ingredient very similar to the mucousy glue layer found in natural tears. This drop not only helps relieve symptoms, but can help stick tears to your eye for long lasting relief. Hylo fresh and its extra strength sibling Hylo Forte have a different active ingredient which attracts water like a sponge. This drop helps to absorb the watery component of natural tears to help prevent tears from drying up. Nova tears is another drop we have at Custom Eyecare, which is a liquid mineral oil. This tiny drop is able to spread across the whole surface eye with ease, helping replace the natural oil layer of the tears. 

As Dry Eye tends to be very unique to each patient, an individualized approach to choosing artificial tears will bring the best results. Come in to Custom Eyecare to discuss the range of drops available and which will be best suited to your eyes.

Author: Wesley Butler, Optometrist