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Can Chronic Dry Eye Disease Lead to Permanent Vision Loss?

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A man rubbing his eyes due to experiencing dry eyes.

Vision discomfort with dry, gritty, or irritated eyes is a common condition known as dry eye. Yet, for some, chronic dry eye that lasts for weeks or months can significantly impact their daily life and, potentially, their vision. 

Chronic dry eye can cause damage to the cornea or front layer of the eye and lead to impaired vision and blindness. Mild to moderate dry eye will unlikely cause permanent damage to vision. Regular eye exams can help monitor vision changes before they become more serious. 

What Is Dry Eye Disease?

Dry eye disease is a common condition resulting from insufficient tears or poor quality tears on the eye’s surface, leading to symptoms such as persistent dryness, blurry vision, sensitivity to light, and eye fatigue. 

What Is Chronic Dry Eye Disease?

Chronic dry eye disease, or chronic dry eye, unlike dryness many experience due to environmental factors like wind or current events like the extended use of digital screens, is a constant or recurrent lack of sufficient lubrication and moisture in the eyes. 

Chronic dry eye can lead to an array of symptoms that range from mild to severe, including:

  • Persistent dryness
  • Blurry vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Eye fatigue
  • Stringy mucus around or in the eyes

Causes of chronic dry eye can include:

  • Medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, or Sjögren’s disease
  • Medications such as blood pressure medications or antidepressants
  • Eye surgery
  • Long-term contact lens wear
  • Age, as the eyes produce fewer tears as you age
  • Hormone changes can cause chronic dry eye, which is common in pregnancy and menopause

Chronic Dry Eye Disease & Vision Loss

The eye’s tear film is essential for maintaining clear, comfortable vision. In healthy eyes, this film keeps the eye’s surface smooth and lubricated. However, inadequate tear production, tear quality, or the eye’s inability to focus can lead to complications.

Over time, chronic dry eye can damage the cornea, which is vital for clear vision. Corneal damage from dry eye can lead to vision impairment and even blindness. 

In some instances, the long-term effects of chronic dry eye can include the following:

  • Decreased quality of life by affecting your ability to carry out daily tasks such as driving or reading
  • Vision-threatening complications, such as corneal ulcers and scarring, which can result in permanent vision loss
  • An increased risk of infection
  • Inflammation of the cornea

Treatment for Chronic Dry Eye Disease

A woman applying eyedrops to her left eye.

It’s crucial to recognize the progression of chronic dry eye from temporary discomfort. Timely diagnosis and appropriate management are key to preserving vision and preventing complications from occurring.

While there is no cure for chronic dry eye, your eye doctor can recommend the following treatments for corneal damage:

  • Eye patches
  • Eye drops or ointments 
  • Special contact lenses
  • Anti-inflammatory eye drops
  • Antibiotics
  • Serum tears

Prevention & Management Strategies 

The good news is that although dry eye can be chronic, it is manageable. Simple lifestyle adjustments and over-the-counter interventions can often alleviate its symptoms. For example, using preservative-free artificial tears can help maintain the tear film’s function. 

Avoiding smoky and windy environments that can increase tear evaporation and taking frequent breaks during extended screen time can also be beneficial. Changing your contact lens wear schedule or type of contact lens can also help prevent dry eyes. 

More advanced management may include prescription eye drops to help the eyes produce more natural tears, or in-office procedures, such as lid debridement and meibomian gland expression, can remove blockages in the oil glands that can affect tear quality. 

Seek Professional Help 

One of the most crucial steps in managing dry eye disease is having regular eye exams with your eye doctor. They can diagnose dry eye disease by checking how many tears your eyes produce, how quickly tears evaporate, and the health of your gland’s secret tear film components. 

Every individual’s dry eye experience is unique, and your eye doctor can tailor the treatment approach to manage symptoms effectively. If you notice persistent dry eye symptoms or changes in your vision, address these issues early to prevent long-term vision issues and improve your quality of life. Regular eye exams are key for maintaining healthy vision and preventing avoidable vision loss.

Relief from Dry Eye

Dry eyes can be temporary due to acute causes like allergens, the environment, and digital eye strain, but they can persist for longer and lead to chronic dry eye. Early diagnosis and treating the underlying cause can prevent worsening symptoms and complications such as impaired vision and permanent vision loss. 

If you experience chronic dry eye symptoms, seek timely treatment and management from your eye doctor for dry eye relief. Book an appointment with Flamborough Family Eyecare for vision discomfort and dry eyes. 

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Written by Flamborough Family Eyecare

Our goal at Flamborough Family Eyecare is to exceed your expectations. We strive to provide each patient with an individualized eye care experience using our team’s expertise in combination with diagnostic technology, making sure every detail is taken into account. You’ll leave our office with your questions answered and your concerns addressed.

Contact us today to book an appointment in Waterdown.

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  • 170 Rockhaven Lane Unit 110
  • Waterdown, ON L0R 2H6

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