What is dry eye?
Dry Eye Syndrome is a condition in which the body is not able to produce enough tears to protect the front surface of the eye and provide quality vision. When the production of natural, healthy tears is reduced, dry eye can cause serious irritation to the eye, particularly the cornea. A natural tear film lubricates the eye surface and helps fight infection, providing nourishment that is vital for clear vision.
Although millions of people suffer from dry eye – most common for contact lens wearers, computer users, previous eye surgery patients and those older than 55 it remains largely undiagnosed and untreated. The new name for this common ailment is ocular surface disease.
How can you tell if you have it? A careful exam by a Horizon Eye Care specialist can determine the different varieties or causes of eye surface disease.
Signs of dry eye
Common symptoms include chronic redness and a gritty feeling that increases during the day. This can be exacerbated in dry winter air, and with moving air such as forced air heating and ceiling fan use.
Common symptoms of dry eye:
- Blurry vision
- Itchy or burning eyesRed eyes
- Frequent tearing
- Foreign body sensation
- Sore or tired eyes
What causes Dry Eye Syndrome?
There are many causes of dry eye, including insufficient tear production and/or poor tear quality. Often there may be two or more causes. Blepharitis, an infection of the lid margin, is a common cause of dry eye. It can be chronic in some patients and may require special lid scrubs to keep the eyelids clean.
Additional causes of dry eye:
- Contact lens wear
- Refractive eye surgeries
- Hormonal deficiencies or changes
- Low blink rate
In cases of evaporative dry eye, an otherwise adequate supply of tears may disappear quickly off the eye due to a diminished oil layer. Your doctor may push gently on your lids to express the oil from the glands. In many cases, no oil can be expressed because it has thickened so that it will not flow onto the eye.
In mild cases, your doctor may prescribe warm compresses and massage to help the oil layer recover. A special artificial tear that helps replace the oil layer will help. You may also be prescribed a higher-level grade of fish oil that has been cleaned (mercury-free) and made to help absorption. A simple blood test can determine whether your fish oil supplement is insufficient or the wrong type. Severe cases may require a low-dosage, prolonged treatment of antibiotics to maintain a normal tear film.
Aqueous tear deficiency – a form of dry eye characterized by an inability to make an adequate quantity of the watery part of the tear film – must be treated with medicines that control inflammation. If a doctor’s test for aqueous tear deficiency is positive, you will need medicines other than artificial tears.
Restasis, which requires a doctor’s prescription, helps you make more of your own tears. Aqueous tear deficiencies not caused by inflammation may respond to tear duct (punctal) plugs. These block normal outflow of tears into the nose, keeping them on the eye for a longer time. In severe cases, a special bandage called an amniotic membrane may help heal the tissue faster.
Why should you be tested for dry eye?
Although dry eye usually results in only discomfort and inconvenience, severe cases can increase the risk of serious infections that could lead to scarring, thinning or tearing of the cornea. In rare cases, the result could be a loss of vision or even the eye itself.
Trust Horizon Eye Care specialists
Horizon’s medical specialists have the expertise and equipment to diagnose and treat dry eye. Our physicians are some of the country’s most talented ophthalmologists and optometrists, passionate about enhancing patients’ lives.
Make an appointment
Schedule an exam at Horizon Eye Care to determine your best dry eye treatment. Online, use Horizon Eye Care’s Patient Portal. Or call 704-365-0555 during regular business hours (Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.).