About dry eye

Dry eyes can be categorised in two simple ways: 

  1. You don’t make enough tears (aqueous deficient - the medical term for this condition is keratoconjunctivitis sicca), or
  2. You make enough tears but the balance of the tear components isn’t correct (evaporative dry eye)

ThermalEyes can be used to treat the second form. The meibomian glands are located in your eyelids (about 50 in the upper lid and 25 in the lower lid). Secretions (meibum) from these glands form the oily surface layer of your tear film which is crucial in preventing evaporation of the tears. Failure of these glands to produce or secrete oil (due to chronic blockage or thickening of the meibum), will affect the quality and stability of your tear film, and may lead to symptoms of dry eye.

You may have been recommended to use heat to improve the amount of oil in your tears. ThermalEyes heat packs are a simple alternative to using a ‘hot flannel’ - just pop it in the microwave for 20 seconds and place it over your closed eyes whilst you sit on your lounge or at your desk at work.

As with anything you heat, it is important that you check the temperature (on your forearm is ideal) before you place directly on your closed eyes.


A little bit of eye lid science

Your tears are a complex mixture of water, fatty oils and mucus. This mixture helps make the surface of your eyes smooth and clear, and it helps protect your eyes from infection.

The tear film has three basic layers: oil, water and mucus. Problems with any of these layers can cause dry eyes symptoms.

Oil (Lipid). The outer layer of the tear film, produced by small glands on the edge of your eyelids (meibomian glands), contains fatty oils called lipids. These smooth the tear surface and slow evaporation of the middle watery layer. If your oil glands don't produce enough oil, the watery layer evaporates too quickly, causing dry eyes. Dry eyes are common in people whose meibomian glands are clogged.

Water (Aqueous). The middle layer is mostly water with a little bit of salt. This layer, produced by the tear glands (lacrimal glands), cleanses your eyes and washes away foreign particles or irritants. If your eye produces inadequate amounts of water, the oil and mucous layers can touch and cause a stringy discharge.

Mucus (Mucin). The inner layer of mucus helps spread tears evenly over the surface of your eyes. If you don't have enough mucus to cover your eyes, dry spots can form on the front surface of the eye (cornea).


How do I know if I have dry eyes?

You may have symptoms of:

  • stinging or burning
  • a sandy or gritty feeling as if something is in the eye
  • episodes of excess tears
  • a stringy discharge from the eye
  • pain and redness of the eye
  • episodes of blurred vision
  • heavy eyelids

Dry eye symptoms may include any of the above - seek advice from your optometrist for a proper diagnosis (and don’t forget to ask for ThermalEyes if they recommend warm compresses!)


What causes dry eyes?

AGE: Tear production tends to diminish as you get older. Dry eyes are common in people older than 50. A lack of tears is more common among women, especially after menopause. This may be due in part to hormonal changes.

HEALTH CONDITIONS: diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma, Sjogren's syndrome, thyroid disorders and vitamin A deficiency can all be associated with dry eye.

SURGERY: Refractive eye surgeries may cause decreased tear production and dry eyes. Symptoms of dry eyes related to these procedures are usually temporary.

TEAR GLAND DAMAGE: Damage to the tear glands from inflammation or radiation can reduce tear production.

EYE LID DAMAGE: Eyelid problems can include an out-turning of the lids (ectropion) or an in-turning of the lids (entropion).

MEDICATIONS: Some high blood pressure medications, antihistamines and decongestants, HRT, certain antidepressants, Isotretinoin-type drugs for treatment of acne can cause dry eye.

ENVIRONMENT: Wind, dry air, air conditioning, and tasks that require enough concentration that you blink less often (such as working at a computer, driving or reading).


What can I do to treat my dry eyes?

Firstly, it’s important that you get your symptoms properly diagnosed by an optometrist or your eye care professional. Once it has been established that you have dry eyes, your treatment may include:

  • warm compresses (to liquefy secretions that have solidified and are clogging the glands)
  • lid scrubs (using baby shampoo or steri-lid)
  • oral antibiotics (such as doxycycline)
  • Omega 3 supplementation
  • topical antibiotic ointments
  • Intense regulated Pulsed Light (IrPL)
  • steam goggles (such as Blephasteam)


Bottom line - if you've read all this, you probably have dry eye and could benefit from ThermalEyes awesome heat packs. Especially if you read all this without blinking.