Dry Eye Relief
The name “dry eye” can be a little confusing since one of the most common symptoms is excessive watering! It makes more sense, though, when you learn that the eye makes two different types of tears:
- Lubricating tears
- Reflex tears
Lubricating tears are produced slowly and steadily throughout the day. Lubricating tears contain a precise balance of mucous, water, oil, nutrient proteins and antibodies that nourish and protect the front surface of the eye.
Reflex tears serve as a kind of emergency response to flood the eye when it is suddenly irritated or injured. Reflex tears might occur when you get something in your eye, when you’re cutting onions, when you’re around smoke or when you accidentally scratch your eye. The reflex tears gush out in such large quantities that the tear drainage system can’t handle them all and they spill out onto your cheek. Another cause of reflex tearing is irritation of the eye from lack of lubricating tears. If your eye is not producing enough lubricating tears, you have dry eye.
Symptoms of Dry Eye
- Watery eyes
- The feeling that there’s sand in your eyes
- Eyes that itch and burn
- Vision that becomes blurred after periods of reading, watching TV, or using a computer
- Red, irritated eyes that produce a mucus discharge
Causes of Dry Eye
- Age: As we get older, the lacrimal gland produces less watery tears
- Diseases: Diabetes, Sjogren’s and Parkinson’s
- Hormonal changes: Especially after menopause
- Prescription medications: High blood pressure medications, antihistamines, diuretics, antidepressants, anti-anxiety pills, sleeping pills and pain medications
- Over-the-counter medications: some cold and allergy products, motion sickness remedies and sleep aids
- Hot, dry or windy conditions: High altitude and air-conditioning can also cause dry eye by increasing the evaporation of the tears
- Reading, using a computer or watching TV: A decrease in blink frequency will increase tear evaporation
- Eye surgery: Some types of eye surgery, including LASIK, can aggravate dry eye; this gradually improves over the first 6 months after surgery
- Inflammation: Some people have chronic inflammation in the meibomian glands, the glands in the eyelids that produce the oily part of the tears. Oil keeps the watery part of the tears from evaporating too quickly. The inflamed oil glands produce less of and a poorer quality of the oil. Decreased oil production allows tears to evaporate too quickly, leaving the eye too dry.
Diagnosing Dry Eye
Dr. Lipstock can check for dry eye by examining your eyes with magnifying instruments, measuring your rate of tear production and checking the amount of time it takes for tears to evaporate between blinks. He can also check for pinpoint scratches on the front surface of the eye caused by dryness using special colored eye drops called fluorescein or Rose Bengal.
Dr. Lipstock has also invested in the TearLab Osmolarity System® to measure the saltiness of your tears (osmolarity). By sampling just a tiny drop of your tear fluid, he can determine if an increase in salt content is damaging the surface cells of your eyes. This simple but effective test will show if your osmolarity is normal, mild, moderate or severe. The results will help Dr. Lipstock recommend the most effective treatment plan and measure if that treatment plan is effective.
Treatments for Dry Eye
The most common treatment is use of artificial teardrops that help make up for the lack of natural lubricating tears. Artificial tear products come in liquid form, longer lasting gel form and long-lasting ointment form, which is most often recommended for nighttime use. Many different brands of artificial tears are available over-the-counter. Some contain preservatives and some do not. Unpreserved tears may be recommended for people whose eyes are sensitive to preservatives. Artificial tears can generally be used as often as needed, from a few times per day to every few minutes. You should follow the regimen your doctor recommends.
When infections, inflammation of the eyelids or clogged oil glands contribute to dry eye, special lid cleaning techniques or antibiotics may be recommended. It may also help to avoid hot, dry or windy environments or to humidify the air in your home or office.
- RESTASIS® is an exciting treatment for Dry Eye Disease. RESTASIS drops help the eyes produce more tears by reducing inflammation, which is often a cause of dry eye. Unlike artificial tears, RESTASIS is the first drug proven to effectively treat a cause of Dry Eye Disease rather than only temporarily alleviating symptoms.
- Punctal occlusion is a medical treatment for dry eye that may enable your eyes to make better and longer use of the few lubricating tears they do produce.
- HydroEye™ is a good Omega 6 oral supplement that has been proven to treat a cause of Dry Eye Disease. It is an excellent addition to our treatment regimen for Dry Eye Disease.
- Steroid eye drops prescribed by and under close supervision by Dr. Lipstock sometimes are very effective at alleviating the discomfort of Dry Eye Disease by working on the inflammatory aspect of it.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of dry eye, contact us today to schedule an eye exam.