Delivering Relief from Dry Eyes

Dry eye is a corneal condition that can cause bothersome irritation and discomfort.   In addition to affecting ocular comfort, chronic dryness can affect the health of your eyes as well.  At Broberg Eye Care, we offer a full range of treatment depending on the severity of your condition. Contact us today to learn more.

Dry eyes affect patients when the tear film is inadequate either in quantity or quality. Tear film that is inadequate in quality lacks the proper combination of mucus, water, and oil. These three components work together to hydrate the eye and keep it functioning properly. An inadequate amount of any of these three elements can cause tears to spread unevenly across the eye or evaporate too quickly. When dry eye is caused by insufficient tear film production, tears have normal make-up, but the amount produced is too low to properly hydrate and protect the ocular surface.

The causes of dry eyes include:

  • Age
  • Medical conditions such as Sjogrens Syndrome
  • Use of certain medications
  • Environmental pollutants
  • Hormonal changes

Eyes that are itchy, scratchy, burning, or feel like they have a foreign object in them are a sign of dry eye. Blurred vision or sensitivity to light may also indicate the condition.

Your eyes may also be red and watery. Although it seems counterintuitive, a symptom of dry eye syndrome is often excess tearing. When the eyes become even slightly dry and irritated, it can initiate tearing by reflex, flooding the eyes with a large amount of tears in an effort to moisten them. Even after excessive tearing, the eyes will feel irritated shortly afterwards.

Dry eye symptoms may get worse in dry, windy weather, especially when temperatures are high and humidity is low. They may also worsen with prolonged computer use, while driving, watching television, or reading.

The first thing your doctor will look for is any indication of an underlying cause for your dry eyes. Certain medications, such as antidepressants, beta-blockers, antihistamines, and oral contraceptives can all lead to a decrease in tear production. A simple adjustment of your medication may be all that is needed to resolve the issue.

Certain medical conditions like autoimmune diseases may cause dryness.  At Broberg Eye Care, we are happy to offer the Sjö™, a laboratory test that can help determine whether you are suffering from Sjögren’s Syndrome.

Even in healthy individuals, an infection along the eyelids, called blepharitis, can lead to instability of the tear film and cause dryness. Blepharitis is usually diagnosed on exam and does not routinely require laboratory testing.

Often the doctor can diagnose dry eye syndrome simply from discussing your symptoms. With a careful examination of your eyes, your doctor can confirm that diagnosis. During the exam, the doctor will examine the front of your eyes with an instrument called a slit lamp. This is a special microscope that can focus a thin sheet of light into the eye, allowing the doctor to see a magnified view of your eye structures in detail. The doctor will inspect the amount and thickness of the tear film over your eyes, and check its stability by checking the time it takes to break up. The conjunctiva will be examined for signs of dryness as well.

The doctor may also use specialized dyes such as Flurorescein, Rose Bengal, and Lissamine Green. These are applied topically to evaluate the integrity of the tear film and the health of corneal and conjunctival cells which may be affected by dry eye. Your doctor may also test your tear film itself.  Our office offers two state-of-the-art, non-invasive modalities for testing of the tear film.  Both modalities yield rapid results that will be communicated to you during your visit.

In many cases, dry eye can be soothed with a humidifier, or with over-the-counter lubricating drops. More serious cases may require prescription drops such as corticosteroids, Restasis® or Xiidra®. Another option is LACRISERT®, which is an artificial tear insert. Worn much like a contact lens, LACRISERT® is inserted into the eye one or two times a day. The insert contains cellulose that helps thicken and stabilize the tear film. These inserts also prolong the time the film of tears is effective.

If there are not enough tears present on the eye’s surface, the doctor can perform a procedure called a punctal occlusion. The punctae are small openings near the inner corner of each eyelid that are the beginning of the natural tear drainage system. The punctal occlusion procedure involves plugging these openings, so that the tears remain on the ocular surface longer, keeping the eyes moist and comfortable. The procedure can be done in our office and only takes a few minutes. The doctor may first recommend a temporary plug that dissolves over time, to make sure the treatment works for you.

Our doctors also offer treatment for evaporative dry eye. This is typically caused by inflammation of the eyelid that causes the meibomian glands to produce insufficient oil.”  Meibomianitis can be treated with topical agents, with pills, or with Intense Pulsed Light therapy (IPL), which directs focused beams of light at the lower eyelids.

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