Dry eye syndrome can be caused by decreased tear production or increased tear evaporation. Normally, the eye constantly bathes itself in tears. By producing tears at a slow and steady rate, the eye stays moist and comfortable. Sometimes people do not produce enough tears or the appropriate quality of tears to keep their eyes healthy and comfortable. This condition is known as dry eye. The eye uses two different methods to produce tears. It can make tears at a slow, steady rate to maintain normal eye lubrication. It can also produce large quantities of tears in response to eye irritation or emotion. When a foreign body or dryness irritates the eye, or when a person cries, excessive tearing occurs.
What are the symptoms of dry eye?
The usual symptoms include:
Excess tearing from "dry eye" may sound illogical, but it can be understood as the eye's response to discomfort. If the tears responsible for maintaining lubrication do not keep the eye wet enough, the eye becomes irritated. Eye irritation prompts the gland that makes tears (called the lacrimal gland) to release a large volume of tears, overwhelming the tear drainage system. These excess tears then overflow from your eye.
When you blink, a film of tears spreads over the eye, making the surface of the eye smooth and clear. Without this tear film, good vision would not be possible.
The tear film consists of three layers:
Each layer has its own purpose. The oily layer, produced by the meibomian glands, forms the outermost surface of the tear film. Its main purpose is to smooth the tear surface and reduce evaporation of tears. The middle watery layer makes up most of what we ordinarily think of as tears. This layer, produced by the lacrimal gland, cleanses the eye and washes away foreign particles or irritants. The inner layer consists of mucus produced by the conjunctiva. Mucus allows the watery layer to spread evenly over the surface of the eye and helps the eye remain moist. Without mucus, tears would not stick to the eye.
Tear production normally decreases as we age. Although dry eye can occur in both men and women at any age, women are most often affected. This is especially true after menopause.
Dry eye can also be associated with other problems. For example, people with dry eyes, dry mouth, and arthritis are said to have Sjogren's syndrome. A wide variety of common medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, can cause dry eye by reducing tear secretion. Be sure to tell your doctor the names of all the medications you are taking, especially if you are using:
There are many different types of dry eye treatments available. Generally, our doctors will decide which dry eye treatment is best for you based on what is causing your dry eye symptoms. For example, if you are experiencing dry eye symptoms as a result of blepharitis, our doctors will suggest BlephEx. By treating the cause of dry eye symptoms, we are able to reduce or eliminate the symptoms all together.
InflammaDry® is a quick and easy in-office dry eye diagnostic tool. Before our dry eye experts at See Clearly can determine which treatment is best for you, they must first determine if dry eye is causing your symptoms. This test allows doctors to quickly diagnose dry eye syndrome so treatment can begin.
InflammaDry® uses microfiltration paper and a tear sample taken from your lower eyelid to make a diagnosis. The results of the test are available after just 10 minutes. InflammaDry® is the first step in any dry eye treatment.
The TearLab osmolarity test is another diagnostic test for dry eye syndrome. Patients with dry eye syndrome often report different symptoms. Some experience redness, some “grittiness”, others report a stinging feeling. But one thing all patients with dry eye have in common is tear film hyperosmolarity, meaning there is less water and more salt present in the tear composition.
During this test, a tear sample is taken using the TearLab osmolarity test pen. The osmolarity test card with your tear sample is then measured by the TearLab osmolarity system. This test has been declared the “gold standard” in objective dry eye diagnosis, and the best marker of the severity of the disease.
BlephEx is a treatment for another common condition called blepharitis. Blepharitis causes irritation and inflammation along the eyelid margin, which in turn causes dry eye symptoms.
BlephEx is a gentle, in office procedure in which our doctors thoroughly clean the eyelids using a medical grade micro-sponge. BlephEx allows doctors to very precisely and carefully remove scurf and debris along the eyelids. This minimizes irritation and, over time, alleviates both blepharitis and dry eye symptoms.
The EyeXpress™ Eye hydration system is a device that we use in our office that relieves symptoms of dry eye while assisting in eye hydration. The EyeXpress™ uses a goggle system that, when worn by the patient, administers heat to the upper and lower eyelid simultaneously. The gentle heat encourages the oil glands in the eyelid to open and help with tear production. The EyeXpress™ is non-invasive, comfortable to use, and effective in the treatment of dry eye.
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. 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 oily 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.
Treat the Cause of Evaporative Dry Eye
LipiFlow® is intended for the application of localized heat and pressure in adult 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: