Dry Eye and Glaucoma
Dry eye and glaucoma commonly occur together. As people age, dry eye syndrome becomes more common, just as glaucoma does. Studies suggest that 40% to 50% of people who have been diagnosed with glaucoma also suffer from dry eye. Women are particularly at risk of having both conditions at the same time.
Glaucoma happens when the eye is no longer able to properly balance the amount of tears that are produced with the amount that dries away. The main cause of this is that the internal fluid pressure of the eye is out of balance. Once it rises dangerously high, glaucoma happens. If the pressure continues to build up until the nerve fibers of the optic nerve are damaged beyond repair, this will eventually lead to vision loss.
Many patients with glaucoma also have dry eye. In many cases, patients experience dry eye symptoms, but do not know that this is the condition they have. This is particularly true because people with glaucoma and dry eye often have excessive tearing. Alternatively, they feel like there is something in their eye, leading to them thinking there is a foreign object somewhere in the eye.
Both glaucoma and dry eye are chronic conditions and it is important to treat both properly. Treatment of two conditions can be a challenge. Treating dry eye is very important both for the patient’s comfort and for the long-term health of the surface of the eye. However, because glaucoma can cause vision loss, when a patient has both dry eye syndrome and glaucoma, the glaucoma is usually treated first. Addressing the glaucoma almost always takes precedence over treating the dry eye disease – even though the dry eye bothers the patient more.
Usually a combination of treatments is helpful, and your doctor may try several treatments to find the combination that works best. Treatments for dry eye include:
- Artificial tears, most often in the form of eye drops
- Fish Oil/Omega 3 vitamins
- Cyclosporine medication drops that suppress inflammation
- Eyelid scrubs or warm compresses to minimize inflammation
- Doxycycline or other medications to further treat lid inflammation
Glaucoma treatment may include:
- Eye drops or oral medicines that help reduce pressure in the eye
- Several kinds of laser treatments to decrease eye pressure or to compensate for narrow angle glaucoma
- Surgery to create a new opening for fluid to drain from the eye