Approximately 12 million Americans suffer from a disease called dry eye syndrome. Dry eye syndrome is a chronic lack of sufficient lubrication and moisture in the eye. Its consequences range from subtle but consistent irritation to ocular inflammation of the anterior tissues of the eye. The condition is one of the most common disorders among people over 40. In fact, 20% of all adults have some degree of dry eye syndrome and women past menopause are especially susceptible.
For some people, the stinging, burning and redness may seem like little more than a nuisance. But, if left untreated, dry eye syndrome can lead to serious eye problems, including blindness. Dry eyes are inflamed eyes. Inflammation of the front surface of the eye increases the risk of infection and can also lead to scarring. Once scarring occurs, permanent loss of sight can occur.
Our eyes need tears to stay healthy and comfortable. If your eyes do not produce enough tears, it is called dry eye.
Dry eye is also when your eyes do not make the right type of tears or tear film.
Here are some of the symptoms of dry eye:
Having a lot of tears in your eyes with “dry eye” might sound odd. But your eyes make more tears when they are irritated by dry eye.
People tend to make fewer tears as they get older due to hormonal changes. Both men and women can get dry eye. However, it is more common in women—especially those who have gone through menopause.
Here are some other causes of dry eye.
Tell your ophthalmologist about all the prescription and non-prescription medicines you take.
We offer a variety of treatment options for a dry eye diagnosis. Some of the more common and easy treatments that you can do at home for irritated eyes include:
When you blink, a film of tears spreads over the eye. This keeps the eye’s surface smooth and clear. The tear film is important for good vision.
The tear film is made of three layers:
Each layer of the tear film serves a purpose.
The oily layer is the outside of the tear film. It makes the tear surface smooth and keeps tears from drying up too quickly. This layer is made in the eye’s meibomian glands.
The watery layer is the middle of the tear film. It makes up most of what we see as tears. This layer cleans the eye, washing away particles that do not belong in the eye. This layer comes from the lacrimal glands in the eyelids.
The mucus layer is the inner layer of the tear film. This helps spread the watery layer over the eye’s surface, keeping it moist. Without mucus, tears would not stick to the eye. Mucus is made in the conjunctiva. This is the clear tissue covering the white of your eye and inside your eyelids.
Normally, our eyes constantly make tears to stay moist. If our eyes are irritated, or we cry, our eyes make a lot of tears. But, sometimes the eyes don’t make enough tears or something affects one or more layers of the tear film. In those cases, we end up with dry eyes.
Your ophthalmologist might tell you to use artificial tears. These are eye drops that are like your own tears. You can use artificial tears as often as you need to. You can buy artificial tears without a prescription and there are many brands to choose from. Try a few until you find a brand that works best for you. If you use artificial tears more than six times a day or are allergic to preservatives, you should use preservative-free tears. This is because if the tears with preservatives are used a lot, these chemicals may start to irritate your eyes.
If you need to increase the amount of tears in your eyes, your ophthalmologist might have you use a special eyedrop medication. This helps your eyes make more of their own tears.
If you are experiencing eye dryness, irritation, light sensitivity, vision fluctuations, contact lens intolerance, and eye fatigue, you may be a candidate for a new treatment called LipiFlow® Thermal Pulsation Therapy for evaporative dry eye syndrome.
Of millions of people in the U.S. that suffer from dry eye, a majority have evaporative dry eye, which stems from a deficiency in the oil (lipid) layer of the eye’s tear film. The lipid deficiency is due to blockages in the Meibomian glands located in the eyelids. The lipids serve to protect the water (aqueous) layer of tears so that the tears do not evaporate too quickly.
LipiFlow® therapy consists of the application of localized heat and pressure to the eyelids in patients with Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD), also known as evaporative dry eye or lipid deficient dry eye.
Unlike traditional treatments (e.g., warm compresses, wetting drops and ointments) that address dry eye symptoms, LipiFlow® treats the root cause, the obstructed Meibomian glands. If left untreated, dry eye can lead to further ocular deterioration and additional problems. The goal of unblocking the glands is to allow them to resume their natural production of lipids required for a healthy tear film. LipiFlow® treatments can only be provided by a licensed physician.
How LipiFlow® Works:
In a controlled clinical trial, a majority of patients treated with LipiFlow® reported an improvement in overall dry eye symptoms at 4 weeks post-treatment.
You would not be a candidate for LipiFlow® if you recently had eye surgery, eye injury, herpes of the eye or chronic eye inflammation. LipiFlow may not fit all eyes. Possible side effects from LipiFlow® include redness, burning, stinging, discharge, blurred vision, dryness and sensitivity to light. Talk to your doctor about the benefits, safety, and risks of LipiFlow®.
If dry eye is hindering you from the activities you love, we are here to help. Please contact us to schedule an appointment for a dry eye assessment.
Your ophthalmologist may suggest blocking your tear ducts. This makes your natural tears stay in your eyes longer. Tiny silicone or gel plugs (called punctal plugs) may be inserted in your tear ducts. These plugs can be removed later as needed. Your ophthalmologist could also recommend surgery that permanently closes your tear ducts.
We’re here to help you!