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Canadian Winter and the dreaded Dry Eye Syndrome

There’s no denying that there comes a point in time when everyone hopes for the harsh Canadian weather to come to an end – hoping for an end to the dry hair, dry hands, and most importantly the dry or watery eyes. The most common indicator of dry eyes is the “tearing” experienced by thousands who walk through our door. At first it doesn’t sound logical that experiencing excessive tearing would mean you have dry eyes. But in reality these tears are the eyes response to the irritation caused by dry eye. The irritation prompts the lacrimal gland (the gland that makes tears) to release a large volume of tears, which ultimately flow from your eyes. However, it is beneficial to keep in mind that tearing is not the only sign – the irritation, burning sensation, or even difficulty with vision you may feel, may also suggest you are experiencing dry eyes.

Apart from the environment or more specifically from the heating in our homes, the harsh windy conditions walking out of work and the air conditioning in our cars in the summer, there are a variety of different causes to dry eye. Hormonal changes, particularly the hormonal changes associated with menopause, are a prevalent factor in women. Contact lens use is also a leading risk factor for dry, irritated eyes. Diabetes, autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, and medications for high blood pressure, or allergies, are just some of the other causes that may be causing a decrease in the production and stability of tears, and ultimately leading to dry eye.

The eye is made up of tears which provide moisture and lubrication to the front surface of the eye when you blink. However, not producing enough tears or not producing the right quality of tears can lead to dry eye. The tear film consists of three different layers:

1)    The aqueous, or water layer

2)    The mucous, or mucin layer

3)    The lipid, or oily layer

The function of the tears is dependent on the composition, concentration and stability of all three layers of the tear film, which can be measured in our office with the TearLab Test, also known as the Osmolarity Test. When the quantity or quality of tears is compromised, increased rates of evaporation lead to a more concentrated tear film (increased osmolarity) that places stress on the outer most layer of the eye. Our office is an accredited TearLab Dry Eye Centre, so if you experience any of the above symptoms, or feel you may be experiencing dry eyes and would like to know why, rest assured our Ophthalmologists at North Toronto Eye Care will be able to diagnose exactly what is going on.


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