Dry eye is one of the most common reasons for someone to seek help from an eye care professional. Innovative Eyecare is a TearLab Accredited Dry Eye Center and utilizes the most advanced technology on the market to diagnose and treat dry eyes, including the TearLab™ Osmolarity System, LipiScan® and LipiFlow®.
Dry eye syndrome (DES or dry eye) is a condition in which a person doesn’t have enough quality tears to lubricate and nourish the eye. Its consequences range from minor irritation to the inability to wear contact lenses and an increased risk of corneal inflammation and eye infections.
Symptoms of Dry Eye
Persistent dryness, scratchiness, and a burning sensation on your eyes are common symptoms of dry eye syndrome. Some people with dry eyes also experience a “foreign body sensation” – the feeling that something is in the eye. Although it may seem odd, sometimes dry eye syndrome can cause watery eyes because the excessive dryness works to overstimulate production of the watery component of your eye’s tears.
What Causes Dry Eyes?
In dry eye syndrome, the tear glands that moisturize the eye don’t produce enough tears, or the tear film evaporates away too quickly due to poor tear film quality.
Dry eyes can develop for many reasons, including:
- Age. Dry eyes are a part of the natural aging process. The majority of people over age 65 experience some symptoms of dry eyes.
- Gender. Women are more likely to develop dry eyes due to hormonal changes caused by pregnancy, the use of oral contraceptives and menopause.
- Medications. Certain medicines, including antihistamines, decongestants, blood pressure medications and antidepressants, can reduce tear production.
- Medical conditions. People with rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and thyroid problems are more likely to have symptoms of dry eyes. Also, problems with inflammation of the eyelids (blepharitis), inflammation of the surfaces of the eye, or the inward or outward turning of eyelids can cause dry eyes to develop.
- Environmental conditions. Exposure to smoke, wind and dry climates can increase tear evaporation resulting in dry eye symptoms. Failure to blink regularly, such as when staring at a computer screen for long periods of time, can also contribute to drying of the eyes.
- Other factors. Long-term use of contact lenses can be a factor in the development of dry eyes. Refractive eye surgeries, such as LASIK, can decrease tear production and contribute to dry eyes.
Treatment for Dry Eye
Dry eye can be a chronic condition, but your optometrist can prescribe treatment to keep your eyes healthy and comfortable and to prevent your vision from being affected. The primary approaches used to manage and treat dry eyes include adding tears using over-the-counter artificial tear solutions, conserving tears, increasing tear production, and treating the inflammation of the eyelids or eye surface that contributes to the dry eyes.
- Adding tears. Mild cases of dry eyes can often be managed using over-the-counter artificial tear solutions. These can be used as often as needed to supplement natural tear production. Preservative-free artificial tear solutions are recommended because they contain fewer additives, which can further irritate the eyes. People with dry eyes that don’t respond to artificial tears alone will need to take additional steps to treat their dry eyes.
- Conserving tears. Keeping natural tears in the eyes longer can reduce the symptoms of dry eyes. This can be done by blocking the tear ducts through which the tears normally drain. The tear ducts can be blocked with tiny silicone or gel-like plugs that can be removed if needed. Or a surgical procedure can permanently close the tear ducts. In either case, the goal is to keep the available tears in the eye longer to reduce problems related to dry eyes.
- Increasing tear production. Your optometrist can prescribe eye drops that increase tear production. Taking an omega-3 fatty acid nutritional supplement may also help.
- Treating the contributing eyelid or ocular surface inflammation. Your optometrist might recommend prescription eye drops or ointments, warm compresses and lid massage, or eyelid cleaners to help decrease inflammation around the surface of the eyes. Lipiflow treatment may be recommended if warm compresses are not found to be effective.