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Dry Eye: The Anatomy of Your Tears

A staggering number of people suffer from dry eye, but do you ever stop and wonder, "Why me?" or "What could I be doing differently to prevent dry eye?" There are many different kinds of dry eyes so the answer to those questions is not the same for everyone. We'd like you to understand and learn more about dry eye so we're launching a "blog series" of articles related to dry eye, including causes, treatment, prevention, and much more!

Let's start with the basics... Your tears are made up of three layers called the mucin layer, the aqueous layer, and the oil layer. Each layer serves a different purpose, making each individual layer as important as the next. The mucin layer helps the tears adhere to the eye itself. The aqueous layer nourishes and protects the cornea. And the oil layer holds everything together by preventing evaporation of your tears.

Dryness can be a result of inadequate aqueous tear production (aqueous dry eye) or evaporation of tears due to a deficient or absent lipid layer (evaporative dry eye). Evaporative dry eye is by far the most common, accounting for 86% of all cases of dryness. It is caused by blockage of the meibomian glands that produce the oil layer of our tear film. Those meibomian glands line the eyelid margins and are easily clogged up by makeup and bacteria. When clogged, oil is not produced normally and your tears subsequently evaporate much quicker than normal.

I would venture to guess that over half of our patients have poor oil production, and most of them have no idea. There are some very simple solutions to this problem that can help relieve symptoms and/or prevent symptoms from the beginning. Stay tuned for more information on the small changes you can make to relieve and prevent dry eye.

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Madison, WI 53705