What Is Dry Eye?
The eyes need tears to remain healthy, functional, and comfortable. If you notice that your eyes are not producing enough tears, you may have dry eye. Dry eye is a common eye condition that affects the tear film that covers the cornea. This film is composed of three distinct layers that work in unison to keep your eyes nourished. Any disturbance to the tear film can result in bothersome symptoms, such as:
- A burning or stinging sensation in the eyes
- Sensitivity to light
- Blurry vision
- Unexplained changes in vision
- Eye discharge
Although it may seem counterintuitive, watery eyes may also be a symptom of dry eyes. This can happen when the meibomian glands do not produce enough oil to coat the outermost layer of the tear film, causing the underlying watery layer of tear film to evaporate too quickly. In response to this imbalance, the lacrimal glands produce more tears — although they are not able to properly coat the eyes — leaving many dry eye sufferers with watery eyes.
Dry eye can occur alone or appear alongside other medical conditions, such as diabetes, certain eye diseases, or blepharitis.
Dry Eye Risk Factors
There are many factors that can increase your risk for dry eye, including:
Age: As you get older, your likelihood of dry eye increases.
Lifestyle: Factors such as your environment, the amount of time you spend looking at screens, and allergies can influence the health of your eyes and trigger dry eye symptoms.
Certain medications: Certain medications, such as those that treat allergies, systemic retinoids, and hypertension, can increase the risk of dry eye.
Diagnosing Dry Eye
Tests will also be performed to help diagnose dry eye. These include:
Slit lamp exam: The slit lamp exam helps our doctors get a gauge of the amount of tears your eyes are producing. It involves shining a light into each of the eyes and then using a microscope to thoroughly examine the eyes and eyelids.
Schirmer’s test: Tear production may also be measured with Schirmer’s test. A small strip of paper is placed at the edge of the eyelid and left there for several minutes. The eyes will naturally produce tears in response, which are then measured by examining the amount of paper that is covered.
Tear breakup time test: This test is performed to evaluate how fast the tears evaporate. This requires our doctors to place dye into the eyes to determine the stability of the tear film.
The goal of dry eye treatment is to alleviate symptoms and limit potential damage to the delicate surface of the eyes. Your treatment options may include:
Artificial tears: Artificial tears relieve mild symptoms of dry eye and provide an instant boost of moisture. They are specifically formulated to replicate natural tears, which may help your eyes stay comfortable and lubricated.
Ointments: Some patients require a thicker formula to eliminate eye irritation and dryness. Ointments are a great option in these cases and are also ideal for bedtime use.
IPL therapy: Short for intense pulsed light, IPL is an advanced technology that uses light pulses that target the meibomian glands, effectively eliminating any substances that could be contributing to gland blockage. This treatment can help restore the function of the meibomian glands, which are essential to a healthy tear film.
Choose Laser Eye Center of Miami
For more information on dry eye treatment, contact our office to schedule your eye appointment today.