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Home » Managing Illnesses » Connecting Dry Eye Disease and Glaucoma

When we talk about diseases of the eye, there are two major ones that come to mind: dry eye disease and glaucoma. Both diseases have no symptoms in their early stages and require personalized treatment and chronic care. To learn more, we connected with eyeLABSDr. Richard Maharaj and Dr. Faran Vafaie.

Mediaplanet: What is dry eye disease?

eyeLABS: Dry eye disease (DED) is a disease of the eye surface and the related protective tearing system. The normal tear components (water, oil, and protein) are out of balance, which results in inflammation and damage to the eye surface, namely the cornea (the clear window we see through), the conjunctiva (the white tissue around the eye), and the eyelids and associated tear-producing glands. Basically the tears become “sick” both chemically and structurally.

What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma, one of the leading causes of blindness in Canada, is a disease that causes degeneration of the optic nerve. In its early stages, glaucoma has no symptoms but as it advances it can cause irreversible blindness. It’s often referred to as the “silent thief of sight.” This is why early detection and treatment are critical in preventing vision loss.

Are DED and glaucoma linked?

These two diseases aren’t directly linked, as they affect two different parts of the eye. However, glaucoma is treated by reducing pressure inside the eye through the use of daily eye drops. Unfortunately, the drops that are used to manage glaucoma can oftentimes cause DED or make it worse.

What are the signs and symptoms of dry eye in a glaucoma patient?

Symptoms range from having to blink to clear your vision to more severe ones like redness, burning, and watery eyes. Most glaucoma eye drops contain preservatives and can worsen inflammation and dryness. With regular exposure to preservatives and other ingredients, the tissues and tears are affected, which contributes to DED. Mild symptoms can be easily missed, so it’s best to see your optometrist to address it early, because it can be progressive and more challenging to treat the longer it progresses.

How can dry eye be treated in a glaucoma patient?

Traditionally, glaucoma has been a “wait and watch” disease. There has been a recent trend toward the treatment of glaucoma being more proactive, with the use of lasers and microinvasive procedures. This has helped reduce eye drop use and avoid riskier surgical procedures — both of which are risk factors for DED. Alternatively, non-preserved lubricating drops, omega 3 supplements, and proper hydration are great steps to take. All glaucoma patients should have baseline exams with their eye doctor.

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