Dry Eye Diagnosis & Treatment
Many people are suffering from the uncomfortable or even painful symptoms of dry eye without realizing what is causing their symptoms. Identifying that you have dry eye and proper diagnosis of the root cause of your specific case of dry eye is key to getting the treatment you need to obtain relief from uncomfortable symptoms.
You don’t need to live with dry eye! The doctors at Family Eye Care have the expertise and the advanced diagnostic technology to diagnose and treat dry eye leading to good outcomes for patients.
Understanding Dry Eye Syndrome
Tears help give you clear vision, lubricate your eyes, protect against infection, and help with wound healing, so the proper production and drainage of tears is an important part of maintaining optimal eye health and vision.
Dry eye syndrome is a chronic condition when your tears are not sufficient to keep the front surface of the eye lubricated properly. When your eyes do not produce optimal tears to keep them moisturized, dry eye occurs. Dry eye is a common condition where the symptoms can mimic those of other issues like eye allergies, so it is frequently under-diagnosed.
What Are the Symptoms of Dry Eye?
If you are experiencing the following symptoms, you may have dry eye syndrome:
- Burning, stinging, or itching eyes
- A scratchy or sandy feeling in your eyes
- Increased sensitivity to light
- Eye pain or redness
- Stringy mucus or discharge from your eyes
- Fluctuating vision
Symptoms may be made worse by activities like driving, reading, computer use, or watching TV, as you blink less often at these times. When your eyes are not properly lubricated, they are more likely to dry out and become irritated.
What Causes Dry Eye?
Dry eye can result from different conditions, and each case of dry eye is unique. Identifying the root cause of dry eye is vital to getting the right treatment.
Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelids and a common cause of dry eye. The affected area is usually at the very edge of the eyelid, located at the base of the eyelashes. This inflammation causes this area to swell up, appear red and inflamed, and produce infected debris called scurf. It’s a common condition, particularly if you have oily skin, dandruff, or rosacea. Some people describe blepharitis as “psoriasis of the eyelids”.
Diabetics with chronically high blood glucose levels can, unfortunately, experience serious complications with their eyes, including dry eye.
Diabetes affects the oil glands in the eyelids which are responsible for preventing the watery component of the tears from evaporating too quickly after blinking. High blood glucose levels can also damage nerves in the eyes, specifically in the lacrimal gland and on the cornea, and these nerves are necessary for tears to remain on the front surface of the eye. When these nerves are damaged, this can cause insufficient blood flow to the area, and then a decrease in tear production.
Meibomian Gland Dysfunction
One of the most common causes of dry eye is meibomian gland dysfunction or MGD.
The meibomian glands are small oil glands located in the upper and lower eyelids and secrete oil which coats the surface of the eyes and prevents moisture from evaporating. Water, oil, and mucin layers make up the tear film, and this tear film is what keeps the surface of the eye healthy. Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) occurs when the oil-producing meibomian glands are clogged and unable to create a healthy tear film to keep the eyes properly lubricated.
Symptoms of MGD include dryness, burning, itching, sensitivity to light, watery eyes, red eyes, the development of chalazion/styes, blurry vision, and eye crusting or stickiness.
Sjogren’s Syndrome is a systematic autoimmune disease that affects the entire body. One characteristic of this disease is that it causes the immune system to attack the moisture-producing cells in the body, so it’s common for people who have Sjogren’s Syndrome to also have a dry mouth, dry eye, and dry skin.
People who have thyroid disorders, including Graves disease, or hyperthyroidism, in which the thyroid makes too many hormones, or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, also known as hypothyroidism, in which there are low levels of hormones, can suffer from dry eye as a result.
The thyroid is responsible to maintain hormonal and metabolic balance in the body, so when the thyroid isn’t functioning properly, it affects the entire body, including your eyes. For people who have thyroid disorders, treating the thyroid alone won’t take care of dry eye. Even though the thyroid disorder caused the dry eye, the dry eye is a separate problem and requires a separate approach and treatment plan.
Sometimes, people who wear contact lenses can develop dry eye symptoms. These symptoms can be worsened if they have improper contact lens hygiene, or if they are overwearing their contact lenses. If they have an underlying condition causing dry eye disease, then wearing contact lenses can be uncomfortable or even painful, so wearing specialty contact lenses may be necessary.
Sometimes, dry eye syndrome can be a side effect of certain medications which treat conditions such as colds, allergies, high blood pressure, and depression. These medications can impact the functionality of the tear ducts in your eyes and lead to the development of dry eye syndrome.
Some people suffer from the change in seasons, especially in the spring, summer, and fall, because there are a high number of pollens and allergens in the air and they have an autoimmune response to the allergens, which results in ocular inflammation and symptoms of dry eye.
Use of Digital Devices
People who spend most of their working hours looking at computer or tablet screens can develop symptoms of dry eye, because we tend to blink less often when concentrating on a digital screen, and even when we do blink, the blinking is what’s known as partial blinking, and this type of blinking isn’t as effective at keeping the eyes moist.
Treatment Options for Dry Eye
Our qualified eye doctors are trained in diagnosing and treating dry eye syndrome. Through the evaluation and tests performed at a comprehensive eye exam, your optometrist will gather the information needed to determine if you may have dry eye. If a diagnosis is made, your doctor will work with you to put a treatment plan in place tailored to your unique vision and ocular health needs.
Dry eye syndrome can vary in severity from person to person, as everyone is different. Family Eye Care offers many safe and effective treatment solutions for dry eye syndrome. These can include eye drops, lifestyle adjustments, and other strategies designed not just to treat your symptoms, but to address the source of the issue, making your treatment more sustainable and allowing you to live a comfortable, high-quality life.
If you think you may be experiencing dry eye, contact our office to schedule an eye exam with the optometrists at Family Eye Care.