About Dry Eye Syndrome and Blepharitis
Dry eye syndrome involves a dysfunctional tear film in which there is either an insufficient number of tears being produced to adequately lubricate the eye surface or the eye surface is experiencing increased evaporation of tears. A normal tear film consists of three components: a lipid (oil) component, an aqueous (water) component, and a mucin (mucus) component. Each component is important in maintaining a healthy, lubricated ocular surface. A problem with any of these components may result in tear instability, inflammation, and dry eyes.
Three components of a normal tear film:
- Lipid component—maintains tears on the surface of the eye and reduces tear evaporation
- Aqueous component—responsible for tear spreading
- Mucous component—holds the tear film to the eye and coats the cornea to allow even distribution of tears
Types of Dry Eye Syndrome and Blepharitis
There are two main types of dry eye syndrome, which may present in isolation or occur simultaneously.
Two main types of dry eye syndrome:
- Aqueous deficiency occurs when the lacrimal glands do not produce enough of the watery (or aqueous) component of tears.
- Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD), also known as evaporative dry eye, occurs when there is a deficiency in the oily layer of the tear film, whereby there is increased evaporation of tears. MGD affects 65% of dry eye patients.
Blepharitis can be divided anatomically into anterior and posterior blepharitis. Anterior blepharitis refers to inflammation mainly centered around the skin, eyelashes, and lash follicles, and posterior blepharitis involves the meibomian gland orifices, meibomian glands, tarsal plate, and blepharo-conjunctival junction.
Two main types of blepharitis:
- Anterior blepharitis occurs at the outside edge of the eyelid where the eyelashes attach and is commonly caused by excess bacteria or dandruff of the scalp and eyebrows, resulting in infection.
- Posterior blepharitis affects the inner edge of the eyelid that touches the eye surface and occurs when the oil glands near the base of the eyelids become clogged or irregularly produce oil, creating a favorable environment for bacteria growth.
Symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome and Blepharitis
- A stinging, burning, scratching, or itching sensation
- An aching sensation
- Crusty material clinging to eyelids, eyelashes, or corners of the eye
- Dryness sensation
- Difficulty wearing contact lenses
- Eye redness
- Feeling of having something in your eye
- Blurred vision or eye fatigue
- Sensitivity to light
Dry eye syndrome can also sometimes cause complications if not treated appropriately.
Complications related to dry eye syndrome and blepharitis may include:
- Damage to the surface of your eyes—if left untreated, dry eyes may lead to eye inflammation, corneal ulcers, abrasions of the corneal surface, and vision loss
- Decreased quality of life—discomfort may make it difficult to perform everyday activities
Risk factors for Dry Eye Syndrome and Blepharitis
Women are more likely to be diagnosed with dry eye syndrome and blepharitis than men.
Other risk factors for dry eye syndrome include:
- A diet low in vitamin A
- A history of refractive surgery
- Autoimmune diseases
- Excessive computer use
- Hormone-altering medications
- Older age, usually over the age of 50, though it can occur at any age
- Thyroid diseases
- Wearing contact lenses
Other common risk factors for blepharitis include:
- Acne rosacea
- Chemical irritants
- Contact allergies
- Cosmetic makeup
- Poor hygiene
- Seborrheic dermatitis
Treating Dry Eye Syndrome and Blepharitis at UT Health Austin
Dry eye syndrome and blepharitis may cause significant discomfort and irritation. An ophthalmologist can recommend various lifestyle and diet changes as well as prescription eye drops to improve the lubrication of the ocular surface and control symptoms.
Care Team Approach
At UT Health Austin, we take a multidisciplinary approach to your care. This means you will benefit from the expertise of multiple specialists across a variety of disciplines. Your care team will include fellowship-trained ophthalmologists, ophthalmic technicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, social workers, and more who work together to help you get back to the things in your life that matter most to you. We also collaborate with our colleagues at the Dell Medical School and The University of Texas at Austin to utilize the latest research, diagnostic, and treatment techniques, allowing us to identify new therapies to improve treatment outcomes. We are committed to communicating and coordinating your care with your other healthcare providers to ensure that we are providing you with comprehensive, whole-person care.