Dry eye is a condition caused by the eye's inability to produce adequate tears. Tears help lubricate the eyes; when tear production is unstable or inadequate, the result is dry eyes. There are different reasons why your eyes may fail to produce enough tears or produce poor-quality tears, which we will discuss in more detail.
The instability of tear production causes damage and inflammation to the eye surface. Dry eyes cause discomfort, with most patients experiencing a stinging or burning sensation. Most people experience dry eyes more acutely in certain environments or situations.
The symptoms of dry eyes will usually happen in both eyes. Some signs and symptoms include:
Eye sensitivity to light
A scratchy, burning, or stinging feeling in the eyes
Stringy discharge in and around the eyes
Challenges driving at night
Struggling while wearing contacts
Some people experience eye fatigue, blurred vision, or watery eyes as a response to irritation caused by dry eyes. The symptoms vary in intensity depending on the individual and the environment.
Different procedures and tests are used to determine if an individual has dry eyes. A comprehensive eye exam can diagnose dry eyes. During the exam, the eye doctor will check the history of the patient’s eye health and overall health to determine the cause of the dry eyes. Diagnosis also involves testing to measure the volume of tears.
A Schirmer test is used to measure tear production. Tear volume is also measured using a phenol red thread test. Tests using special eye drops are done to determine the quality of tears. A tear osmolarity test measures the composition of water and particles in the tears. Tear samples are taken to look for markers that indicate dry eyes. We use a state-of-the-art Oculus Keratograph 5 to complete tear films for a dry eye workup.
Treating dry eyes will usually depend on the cause of the problem. Lifestyle changes are a great place to start. It may be as simple as drinking more water, adding a humidifier, different eye makeup remover, or better sunglasses.
Most people with mild or occasional dry eyes benefit from using artificial tears or over-the-counter eye drops. If the symptoms are more serious or persistent, other treatment options can help. Some of the treatments focus on managing or reversing the factor that causes dry eyes. There are also prescription medications that can treat dry eyes.
Sometimes, dry eyes can be controlled by treating an underlying medical or health issue. If dry eyes result from using certain medications, changing to different medications may solve the issue.
Some prescription medicines like Xiidra and Restatis might help manage dry eye by reducing inflammation if that is the root cause of the symptoms. Dry eyes may be due to a health condition such as ectropion or lids turned outwards. An eye surgeon can correct this issue.
Several procedures can treat dry eyes. For example, closing the tear ducts can reduce the loss of tears. This is done using punctual plugs, tiny silicone plugs that block the tear ducts. There are also special contact lenses that can be used to offer relief to people with dry eyes.
Eye masks or warm compresses can be used to unblock oil glands. Although it is an older technology that we don’t use, a thermal pulsation device can also be used to mechanically unclog the glands for mild to moderate dry eye. Newer light therapy options like Low-level Light Therapy LLLT and Intense Pulsed Light Therapy IPL are effective for treating moderate to severe dry eyes. Working with an eye doctor that specializes in the treatment of dry eye disease can help you determine which treatment option is best suited for you.
Every patient is unique. For more on diagnosing & treating dry eyes, contact the eye doctors of Madeira Optical at our office in Cincinnati, Ohio. You can also call (513) 561-7076 to book an appointment today.