Absolutely white, whites of the eye, is a myth. Veins in the eyes are and must be visible in healthy eyes. It is only when the red veins are dilated, the eye appears red. The drying up of lubricants and other protective fluids in the eye can cause irritation in the eye and result in unaccustomed redness and dilation of the veins in the eye. This makes the veins stand out on the whites of the eye giving the eye a reddish color.
Dry eye is also known as Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), or keratitis sicca, sicca syndrome, xerophthalmia, dry eye syndrome (DES), or simply dry eyes. This is an eye disease caused by decreased tear production or increased tear film evaporation from the eye commonly found in humans and some animals. Keratoconjunctivitis sicca is a Latin term that means “dryness of the cornea and conjunctiva”.
A good night’s sleep and repeated lubrication of the eye may not solve the problem, if the dry eye condition is a symptom of some deep rooted systemic problem.
What causes dry eyes? Environmental factors, aging, diseases such as the Sjogren’s syndrome or lifestyles could cause dry eyes. For instance people who constantly stare at the computer monitor without blinking can develop dry eyes over a period of time. Dry eyes could also be caused by obstructions in the tear ducts which reduces the amount of fluids that flow in to the eye.
What are the symptoms of dry eyes? A dry eye is a condition that normally does not produce any eye irritation and hence patients with dry eyes do not actually realize that they have a problem of dry eyes. Chronic dry eyes could result in pain in the eye, light sensitivity, constant gritty sensations, itching, redness and blurring of vision.
Sometimes, people with dry eyes may have excessive tears overflowing the eyes and running down the cheeks causing some confusion about the condition. However, this should be correctly interpreted as a distress signal that the eye is being deprived of lubrication and other protective fluids and is signaling the nervous system for compensation. The response is a flood of tears in the eyes. However, these tears tend to arrive too late and the eye needs to be treated and regenerated.
Diagnosis of dry eyes is done using routine clinical exams and other specific tests such as Schirmer test to determine how much moisture is present in the eye and the severity of the problem. Dyes such as fluorescein or rose Bengal are used to stain the eye surface and determine how much of the surface is dry. Another test that is often used is teat break up time test (TBUT) which helps doctors determine the time taken by the eye to respond with tears to foreign particles in the eye.
In several cases mild dry eye conditions can be set right by the use of preservative free lubricating drops in the eye. Chronic dry eyes are treated with artificial tear drops and ointments, temporary or permanent puntal occlusion, Restais, other medications using tropical steroids and surgery.