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Dry EyeSymptoms, Causes & Treatment
Dry eye disease, also called keratoconjunctivitis sicca or ocular surface disease, is a chronic condition caused by either decreased tear production or increased tear film evaporation. The continuous production and drainage of tears is important to maintaining the health of your eyes. The tears help to moisturize your eyes, protect against eye infection, and help wounds heal. Due to the complex nature of this condition and its tendency to mimic the symptoms of other problems like ocular allergies, dry eye disease is frequently under-diagnosed.
If you are experiencing symptoms of dry eye, you may notice a scratch or sandy feeling, burning or stinging, pain and redness, the feeling similar to having something in the eye (foreign body sensation), stringy or mucous discharge, and episodes of excess tearing. Many people with dry eye are surprised to notice their tears frequently run down their cheeks. Dry eye may even cause the vision to become blurred. You might notice some of these symptoms more often when using your eyes, while reading, using the computer, or watching television, for example.
There are two primary types of Dry Eye, evaporative or oil-deficient dry eye and aqueous or water-deficient dry eye. At Gulfcoast Eye Care, we use the most advanced technologies available to determine which type of dry eye is affecting you. This is especially important because your treatment may be quite different depending upon which type of dry eye is bothering you. Evaporative dry eye is the most common form and affects approximately 65% of people who suffer from dry eye. This is caused by meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) or blockage of naturally occurring glands within your eyelid that would normally produce the oil layer of your tears. Aqueous deficient dry eye may occur as a later consequence of ongoing dry eye as inflammation that develops on the eye’s surface leads to decreased water production by the lacrimal gland.This illustration shows the three layers of the tear film and the oil-producing glands that can become obstructed.
Dry eye is more common in women, especially after menopause, as hormone changes are known to cause a worsening of dry eye. Dry eye can occur due to environmental factors such as evaporation of your tears by fans or air conditioner vents or low humidity environments such as airplane cabins. Medications may intensify dry eye symptoms, including antihistamines, decongestants, sedatives, and anti-depressant drugs.
Systemic disease may also cause dry eye, including connective tissue diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, thyroid problems, or Sjögren’s syndrome, among others. Problems affecting the anatomy of the eyelids causing incomplete function or closure may also play a role in dry eye syndrome.
A breakthrough treatment, LipiFlow Thermal Pulsation Therapy, is available and will benefit most dry eye sufferers. This revolutionary 12-minute, in-office procedure works by applying direct energy to the blocked glands within the eyelids where it is most needed. In this way, a combination of gentle heat and intermittent pressure unblocks glands that may have become blocked over years of time. As a result, these glands can begin functioning normally and, in most cases, provide symptom relief.
At Gulfcoast Eye Care, our eye doctors are proud to be the first ophthalmology practice in Florida offering the LipiView® and LipiFlow® diagnostic and treatment technologies for dry eye disease. As a result, our practice and doctors were featured on CBS, as shown in the below video.
To learn more about these exciting diagnostic and treatment technologies that are breakthroughs in the management of dry eye disease, watch these short videos:
Punctal plugs may be an option for dry eye syndrome when other treatments fail to provide relief from symptoms. Punctal plugs, also known as lacrimal plugs or tear duct plugs, are tiny medical devices that are designed to be inserted in the tear ducts. Once in place, they can improve dry eye symptoms by preventing tear drainage and promoting lubrication. Insertion of punctal plugs is typically a simple in-office procedure. There are several types of punctal plugs available and your doctor at Gulfcoast Eye Care can discuss which type may be best for you.
Given the many factors that can lead to or worsen dry eye syndrome, an evaluation with a trained eye care professional is highly recommended. Depending on the cause of your dry eye, you may need treatments including artificial tears, prescription eye medications, oral supplements, occlusion of your tear drainage system, or thermal pulsation therapy on the eyelids, among others.