What Is Dry Eye Syndrome (DES)?
Dry eye syndrome (DES) is a common condition that occurs when your tears aren't able to provide adequate lubrication for your eyes. Dry eye syndrome can be temporary or chronic. It occurs when the tear glands do not produce enough tears or when your tears evaporate too quickly. Untreated dry eye can cause a variety of complications, ranging from double vision to infections. Additionally, having dry eyes can make it difficult to perform everyday activities, such as reading.
Signs and symptoms of Dry Eye may include:
- 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
How is Dry Eye Diagnosed?
The optometrists at Family Focus Eyecare, check for dry eye and other ocular diseases as part of a comprehensive eye exam. Exams at Family Focus Eyecare are simple and painless – they invest in the latest technology to best diagnose and manage ocular disease while utilizing non-invasive techniques that don't require dilation or the dreaded air-puff test.
If you are experiencing acute or chronic ocular discomfort Family Focus Eyecare can see patients for medical reasons with brief problem-focused exams aside from your annual comprehensive eye-wellness visit.
What Causes Dry Eye Syndrome?
Dry eyes are caused by a variety of reasons that disrupt a healthy tear film. Your tear film has three layers: fatty oils, aqueous fluid, and mucus. This combination usually keeps the surface of your eyes lubricated, smooth, and clear. Problems with any of these layers can cause dry eyes.
Common causes of decreased tear production include:
Dry eye tends to affect people over the age of 50 because tear production declines with age.
Sjogren's syndrome, allergic eye disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma, graft vs. host disease, sarcoidosis, thyroid disorders or vitamin A deficiency.
Tears are composed of oil, water, and mucus. Certain medications, however, can reduce mucus production and contribute to chronic dry eye. Antihistamines, decongestants, hormone replacement therapy, antidepressants, and medicines for high blood pressure, acne, birth control and Parkinson's disease can all contribute to dry eye.
Hormones stimulate the production of tears, so an imbalance can reduce tear production. Women who experience hormonal changes due to pregnancy, using birth control pills, or menopause can experience dry eye.
Some people who work on a computer experience eyestrain and tension headaches. In addition to these issues, staring at a computer often can also affect your tears and lead to dry eye. This is because people who work at a computer monitor tend to blink less often. As a result, their tears evaporate more quickly.
Meibomian gland dysfunction
This can occur when the meibomian glands are not functioning properly and the oily layer above the watery tears is deficient. This causes the tears to evaporate too quickly. It may result in eyelid inflammation or blepharitis. Blepharitis develops when small oil glands on your inner eyelid become clogged and inflamed. Along with dry eyes, you may have oily flakes around your eyelashes.
Smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke can also make your eyes dry.
Allergies can also trigger chronic dry eye. Your eyes may appear itchy, red, and watery. An oral antihistamine can reduce your allergies, although these medications can worsen symptoms of dry eye.
Dry air also contributes to dry eyes. This can happen if there's low humidity in your home, or if you sleep or work next to an air vent.
Long-term use of contact lenses is another risk factor for chronic dry eye. This is because contact lenses obstruct oxygen to the cornea. Daily contact lenses are the healthiest option of contact lenses, especially for those with dry eyes or allergies. Some patients with chronic dry eye also benefit from semi-scleral lenses, or hard lenses vaulting over the cornea, in order to keep tears over the front of their eyes during the day.
What are Therapy Options for Dry Eye?
In some cases, treating an underlying health issue can help clear up the signs and symptoms of dry eyes. There are a few different types of treatment that can ease your symptoms and help keep your eyes healthy.
Over-the-counter eye drops. The most common treatment for mild dry eye is a type of eye drop called artificial tears. You can get these eye drops without a prescription. There are also over-the-counter moisturizing gels and ointments that may help your eyes feel better. Your eye doctor and the consultants at Retuva can help determine which artificial tears and lifestyle changes are best to help manage your dry eye symptoms.
IPL (intense pulsed light therapy), IPL therapy is a painless, in-office treatment that effectively treats the underlying cause of DES. IPL uses short but powerful bursts of light of a specific wavelength to gently heat the skin around the meibomian glands, which in turn, melts any obstructions present in the glands. With the removal of any obstructions, the glands gain increased oil production that results in healthy tears. Over time, if these obstructions were to persist, the meibomian glands will die and the acute symptoms of dry eye turn chronic. Family Focus Eyecare and Retuva use Mebomianography, detailed photography of these glands, to monitor the health of your tear film and ensure long-lasting eye health and comfort.
IPL therapy can help relieve the signs and symptoms of dry eye by dealing with the ROOT of the cause. Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) therapy is FDA approved to treat chronic dry eye caused by Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD) and Ocular Rosacea.
For more information on IPL therapy, click here.