​Dry Eyes

After a long day of staring at your computer screen, your eyes are shot. You may feel your vision to get blurry or have a burning sensation in your eyes. Perhaps in the course of your normal routine you experience a sharp pain in your eye or have excessive watering.

These are all symptoms of the dry eyes syndrome. It is a common condition that occurs when your tears are unable to provide adequate lubrication for your eyes. Tears are produced by the tear film, which is a combination of three layers, a lipid (oil), an aqueous (water) and a mucin (viscous) layer. Normal tears have antibodies and special proteins for resistance to infection.

Tears can be inadequate for many reasons; for instance, dry eyes may occur if you don't produce enough or produce poor-quality tears.

Dry eyes feel uncomfortable in different situations and locations. If you are suffering from dry eyes, your eyes may sting or burn. 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 dry eyes give a very uneasy feeling.

However, treatments can cure this discomfort. These treatments can include lifestyle changes and by eye drops prescribed at the Eye and ENT service line doctors of The Aga Khan University Hospital. 

Factors that increase your chances of experiencing dry eyes include:​

  • ​Being older than 50. Since tear production tends to diminish as you get older, dry eyes are common in people over 50.

  • Diet that is low in vitamin A, which is found in liver, carrots and broccoli, or low in omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fish, walnuts and vegetable oils.

  • Being a woman. A lack of tears is more common in women, especially if they experience hormonal changes due to pregnancy, using birth control pills or menopause.

  • Wearing contact lenses.​​

These are some of the symptoms and causes of dry eye syndrome, which can damage the surface of the eyes and impair vision if not treated immediately: 

  • A painful or itchy feeling in your eyes.

  • ​Stringy mucus in or around your eyes.

  • ​Sensitivity to light.

  • Redness of the eye.

  • Feeling like something is stuck in your eyes.

  • Difficulty in applying contact lenses.

  • Problem while driving in the night.

  • Excessively watery eyes.

  • ​Blurred vision.​

See your doctor if you've had prolonged symptoms of dry eyes, including red, irritated, tired or pain in the eyes. Your doctor at the Eye and ENT service line at The Aga Khan University Hospital can take steps to determine what's bothering your eyes or refer you to a specialist within the service line.​
Your time with your doctor maybe limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started.

At the Eye and ENT service line of The Aga Khan University Hospital, we provide world-class patient care by combining our strengths in clinical expertise, research and education. Serving thousands of patients annually, the doctors at the Eye and ENT service line’s unsurpassed expertise and experience attracts patients from all over the world who seek a definitive diagnosis and cutting-edge treatment, often for a rare or complex eye related disorders. At our service line various tests and procedures are used to determine the cause of your dry eyes. These tests may include:

  • A comprehensive eye exam: To help your doctor diagnose the cause of your dry eyes, an eye exam inclusive of a complete history of your overall health and your eye health is conducted.

  • Testing the quality of your tears: Other tests use special dyes in eye drops to determine the surface condition of your eyes. Your doctor looks for staining patterns on the corneas and measures how long it takes before your tears evaporate.

  • Measuring the volume of your tears: Your doctor may measure your tear production through a test: Blotting strips of paper are placed under your lower eyelids. After five minutes your doctor measures the level of strip soaked by your tears.​​

In certain cases, treating an underlying health issue can help clear up the signs of dry eyes. For example, if a medication is causing your dry eyes, your doctor at the Eye and ENT at The Aga Khan University Hospital, may recommend a different medication that doesn't cause the side effect. If you have an eyelid condition, such as out-turning lids (ectropion), your doctor may refer you to an eye surgeon within the Eye and ENT service line who specializes in plastic surgery of the eyelids (oculoplastic surgeon).

Other prescription medications used to cure dry eyes includes:​

  • Autologous serum drops
    In severe cases of dry eye artificial tears made from the patient’s own serum can be prepared and given 6 to 8 times a day in both eyes.​

  • Topical cyclosporine A eye drops
    These are given two to four times a day in each eye to treat the underlying inflammation in the tear glands so they produce more tears and better quality tears. It typically takes one to four months before the cyclosporine A drops reduce symptoms and signs of dry eye. 

  • Artificial teardrops and ointments

    The use of artificial teardrops is a soothing treatment that helps symptoms for a few minutes but does not treat the underlying cause of the dry eye disease. If you have chronic dry eye, it is important to use the drops even when your eyes feel fine, to keep them lubricated. 

    Note: You should use non-preserved artificial tears, since preservatives will likely worsen your condition.​

  • Temporary punctal occlusion
    The temporary punctual occlusion as the name suggests is a temporary procedure, done to determine whether permanent plugs will help reduce symptoms and signs. Sometimes it is necessary to close the ducts that drain tears off the eye. This is done via a painless procedure where a plug is inserted into the tear drain of the lower eyelid. The plug will dissolve quickly. 

  • Permanent punctal occlusion
    If temporary plugging of the tear drains function successfully or plugging is thought to be important for the health of the eye, and then permanent punctual occlusion procedure is used in which silicone plugs are inserted. (As per the requirement of the eye, some physicians will go directly to silicone plugs without using temporary punctual occlusion.) The permanent plugs will hold tears around the eyes as long as they are in place. They can be removed. Many patients find that the plugs improve comfort and reduce the need for artificial tears.​

  • Surgery
    If needed, the ducts that drain tears into the nose can be permanently closed to allow more tears to remain around the eye.​

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.​

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.​​

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.​

The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.