Diagnosis and Treatment for Dry Eye
Over 100 million people worldwide suffer from dry eye, and women are affected by dry eye 50% more than men. If you are suffering from dry eye syndrome and are looking for a solution, the doctors at Clarin Eye Care in Coral Gables, FL and Palmetto Bay, FL have the expertise to diagnose and successfully treat dry eye.
What is Dry Eye?
Dry eye syndrome is a disease in which the eyes don’t produce enough quality tears to properly lubricate and nourish the eyes. Tears help maintain eye health and keep vision clear. Tears provide lubrication, reduce the risk of eye infection, wash away foreign matter in the eye and keep the surface of the eyes smooth and clear. When tear production and drainage is out of balance, dry eyes can occur.
The tears are made of three components:
- lipid (oil layer to prevent the tears from evaporating),
- aqueous (water and nutrients),
- and mucin (to spread the tear film evenly and stabilize tears).
Any decrease in the quality or the quantity of any of the three components will lead to dry eyes. Dry eye is categorized into two distinct groups:
- Aqueous deficiency dry eye (keratoconjunctivitis sicca)
- Evaporative dry eye (Meibomian gland dysfunction)
What are the Symptoms of Dry Eye?
Common symptoms of dry eye include the following:
- A stinging, burning or scratchy sensation in your eyes
- Stringy mucus in or around your eyes
- Sensitivity to light
- Eye redness
- A sensation of having something in your eyes
- Difficulty wearing contact lenses
- Difficulty with nighttime driving
- Watery eyes, which is the body’s response to the irritation of dry eyes
- Blurred vision or eye fatigue
What Causes Dry Eye?
While most cases of dry eye are caused by meibomian gland dysfunction, there are also other conditions and diseases which can lead to the development of dry eye. Determining the root cause or causes of your case of dry eye is important so that it can be properly treated.
Meibomian Gland Dysfunction
The most common cause of dry eye disease is meibomian gland dysfunction, or MGD.
The meibomian glands are small oil glands located in the upper and lower eyelids and secrete oil which coats the surface of the eyes and prevents moisture from evaporating. Water, oil, and mucin layers make up the tear film, and this tear film is what keeps the surface of the eye healthy. Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) occurs when the oil-producing meibomian glands are clogged and unable to create a healthy tear film to keep the eyes properly lubricated. Symptoms of meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) include dryness, burning, itching, sensitivity to light, watery eyes, red eyes, the development of chalazion/styes, blurry vision, and eye crusting or stickiness.
People who have chronically high blood glucose levels can experience serious eye health complications, including diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, glaucoma, and dry eye.
Diabetes can affect the oil glands in the eyelids which are responsible for preventing the watery component of the tears from evaporating too quickly after blinking. High blood glucose levels can also damage nerves in the eyes, specifically in the lacrimal gland and on the cornea, and these nerves are necessary for tears to remain on the front surface of the eye. When these nerves are damaged, this can cause insufficient blood flow to the area, and then a decrease in tear production.
Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelids. The affected area is usually at the very edge of the eyelid, located at the base of the eyelashes. This inflammation causes this area to swell up, appear red and inflamed, and produce infected debris called scurf. It’s a common condition, particularly if you have oily skin, dandruff, or rosacea. Some people describe blepharitis as “psoriasis of the eyelids”. Blepharitis can cause dry eye.
Sjogren’s Syndrome is a systematic autoimmune disease that affects the entire body. One characteristic of this disease is that it causes the immune system to attack the moisture-producing cells in the body, so it’s common for people who have Sjogren’s Syndrome to also have a dry mouth, dry eye, and dry skin.
People who have thyroid disorders, including Graves disease, or hyperthyroidism, in which the thyroid makes too many hormones, or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, also known as hypothyroidism, in which there are low levels of hormones, can suffer from dry eye as a result.
Some medications which treat conditions such as colds, allergies, high blood pressure, and depression can lead to the development of dry eye syndrome.
Laser Eye Surgery
Sometimes, people who have had laser eye surgery such as LASIK can experience a decrease in the production of tears or an increase in corneal sensitivity which can then lead to the development of dry eye.
People who are currently undergoing radiation therapy for head or neck cancer, cancer of the eye socket, or brain cancer, can sometimes develop dry eye as an unfortunate side effect.
Use of Digital Devices
Sometimes, people who spend most days looking at a computer or other digital screens can develop symptoms of dry eye, because of the tendency to blink less often while concentrating on the screen.
Because the pill, hormonal patches, IUDs, and vaginal rings can cause hormonal changes designed to mimic pregnancy, people who are on birth control can develop symptoms of dry eye as a result.
Women going through menopause experience less progesterone, estrogen, and androgen production in their bodies. Androgens can affect the balance of tear production, so when there is a drop in androgen production, fewer tears can be a result, which leads to dry eye.
How is Dry Eye Diagnosed?
At Clarin Eye Care and Coral Gables Eye Care, our doctors diagnose dry eye disease through an evaluation of the quantity and quality of tears produced by the eyes, consideration of the patient’s symptoms, health history, medications, and environmental factors.
How is Dry Eye Treated?
While dry eye can be a chronic condition, our doctors can prescribe treatment to help patients maintain healthy eyes, minimize dryness, and discomfort, and prevent vision from being affected. Primary treatments for the management and treatment of dry eye includes using artificial tears, increasing tear production, and treating inflammation of the eyelids or the eye surface.
The doctors at Clarin Eye Care in Palmetto Bay or Coral Gables Eye Care will create a treatment plan customized to your specific case of dry eye disease. If you’ve been suffering from symptoms, please contact us today to schedule an appointment.