Dry Eye, Introduction
Do your eyes feel irritated or like something is in them? Are you experiencing redness, burning, excessive tearing, or occasional blurry vision? You may have dry eye, a common condition where your eyes do not produce enough tears. Sometimes, the only symptom of dry eye is recurring blurred vision.Because there are many possible causes of dry eye, we gather a patient health history to better understand your risk. For example, common medications such as diuretics or antihistamines increase dry eye risk. You are also more likely to have dry eye if you wear contact lenses, recently had LASIK eye surgery, or use two or more glaucoma eye drops. Quite often, thyroid dysfunction and the hormonal changes associated with menopause can cause dry eye. In addition, your work environment can also affect your eye health – for example, people who use a computer all day long are more susceptible to dry eye.If we determine that you are at risk for dry eye, based on your symptoms and risk factors, we can perform state of the art tests to evaluate and understand the underlying reasons for your dry eye. We will work with you to identify the best treatment plan for your unique needs. Think you might have dry eye? Talk to us today about how we can help you find relief.
What are the symptoms of dry eye?
The usual symptoms include: stinging or burning eyes; scratchiness; stringy mucus in or around the eyes; eye irritation from smoke or wind; excess tearing and difficulty wearing contact lenses. It may sound illogical that dry eyes causes an excess tearing reflex, but if the tears responsible for maintaining lubrication do not keep the eye lubricated, the eye becomes irritated and produces an imbalance of tears. When the eye is irritated, the lacrimal gland produces a large volume of tears, which overwhelms the tear drainage system. These excess tears then overflow from your eye.
What is the tear film?
A film of tears, spread over the eye by a blink, makes the surface of the eye smooth and clear. Without our tear film, good vision would not be possible. The tear film consists of three layers: An oily layer; A watery layer; A layer of mucus. The oily layer, produced by the meibomian glands, forms the outermost surface of the tear film. Its main purpose is to smooth the tear surface and reduce evaporation of tears. The middle watery layer makes up most of what we ordinarily think of as tears. This layer, produced by the lacrimal gland, cleanses the eye and washes away foreign particles or irritants. The inner layer consists of mucus produced by the conjunctiva. Mucus allows the watery layer to spread evenly over the surface of the eye and helps the eye remain wet. Without mucus, tears would not adhere to the eye.
What causes dry eye?
Tear production normally decreases as we age. Although dry eye can occur in both men and women at any age, women are most often affected. This is especially true after menopause. Dry eye can also be associated with arthritis and accompanied by a dry mouth. People with dry eyes, dry mouth and arthritis are said to have Sjogren’s syndrome.
A wide variety of common medications – prescription and over-the-counter can cause dry eye by reducing tear secretion. Be sure to tell your optometrist the names of all the medications you are taking, especially if you are using Diuretics; Betablockers: Antihistamines; Hormone replacement; Sleeping pills; BCP; Medications for “nerves” or Pain relievers. Since these medications are often necessary, the dry eye condition may have to be tolerated or treated with “artificial tears.” People with dry eye are often more prone to the toxic side effects of eye medications, including artificial tears. For example, the preservatives in certain eye drops and artificial tear preparations can irritate the eye. Your eye care practitioner may prescribe preservative-free eye drops for you.
How is dry eye diagnosed?
If you think you might have dry eye, your eye care professional will ask you a few questions and perform some tests in order to confirm the diagnosis and understand the cause of your dry eye. This helps your doctor design the best treatment plan.
There are a variety of reasons you may be experiencing dry eye. Because tears help lubricate and protect the eye, dry eye is often caused by not producing enough tears – or not producing the right quality tears.
To see how many tears your eye produces, your eye care professional may use a paper or thread test that can measure the volume of your tears. They also might use stains to see where dry spots have formed, causing damage to the eye’s surface.
To measure the health of your tears, your eye care professional may take a sample of your tears to test the salt content and concentration of your tears. Oil is another key component of healthy tears. Glands in your eyelids play a big role in producing oil for your tears, so your doctor will examine your eyelids for blockages or eyelid inflammation.
Talk to us today about the best tests to determine if you have dry eye.