Dry Eye Treatment
What Is Dry Eye?
The name “dry eye” can be a little confusing since one of the most common symptoms is excessive watering. It makes more sense, though, when you learn that the eye makes two different types of tears.
The first type, called lubricating tears, is produced slowly and steadily throughout the day. Lubricating tears contain a precise balance of mucous, water, oil, nutrient proteins, and antibodies that nourish and protect the front surface of the eye.
The second type of tear, called a reflex tear, does not have much lubricating value. Reflex tears serve as a kind of emergency response to flood the eye when it is suddenly irritated or injured. Reflex tears might occur when you get something in your eye, when you’re cutting onions, when you’re around smoke, or when you accidentally scratch your eye.
The reflex tears gush out in such large quantities that the tear drainage system can’t handle them all and they spill out onto your cheek. Still another cause of reflex tearing is irritation of the eye from lack of lubricating tears. If your eye is not producing enough lubricating tears, you have dry eye.
At Central Valley Eye Medical Group, we offer treatment for dry eye for patients in Stockton, Manteca, CA and surrounding areas.
What Causes Dry Eye?
- Age: As we get older, glands in the eyelid produce less oil. Oil is what keeps our tears from evaporating off the eye. Decreased oil production allows tears to evaporate too quickly, leaving the eye too dry.
- Diseases including diabetes, Sjogren’s and Parkinson’s.
- Hormonal changes, especially after menopause.
- Prescription medications: These include some high blood pressure medications, antihistamines, diuretics, antidepressants, anti-anxiety pills, sleeping pills, and pain medications. Over-the-counter medications including some cold and allergy products, motion sickness remedies, and sleep aids can also cause dry eye.
- Hot dry or windy conditions: High altitude, air-conditioning, and smoke can also cause dry eye
- Reading, using a computer or watching TV
- Contact lenses
- Eye surgery: Some types of eye surgery, including LASIK, can aggravate dry eye.
- Inflammation: Recent research suggests that dry eye may be caused by inflammation due to an imbalance of “good” fats and “bad” fats.
Symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome
The following are symptoms you may experience when you have dry eye:
- Watery eyes
- The feeling that there’s sand in your eyes
- Eyes that itch and burn
- Vision that becomes blurred after periods of reading, watching TV, or using a computer
- Red, irritated eyes that produce a mucus discharge
How Is Dry Eye Diagnosed?
Your eye doctor can check for dry eye by examining your eyes with magnifying instruments, measuring your rate of tear production and checking the amount of time it takes for tears to evaporate between blinks. Your doctor can also check for pinpoint scratches on the front surface of the eye caused by dryness using special, colored eye drops called fluorescein or Rose Bengal.
Artificial Teardrops for Dry Eye
The most common treatment for dry eye is the use of artificial teardrops that help make up for the lack of natural lubricating tears. Artificial tear products come in liquid form, longer-lasting gel form and long-lasting ointment form, which is most often recommended for nighttime use. Many different brands of artificial tears are available over-the-counter. Some contain preservatives and some do not. Unpreserved tears may be recommended for people whose eyes are sensitive to preservatives. Artificial tears can generally be used as often as needed, from a few times per day to every few minutes. You should follow the regimen your doctor recommends.
When infection, inflammation of the eyelids or clogged oil glands contribute to dry eye, special lid cleaning techniques or antibiotics may be recommended. It may also help to avoid hot, dry or windy environments or to humidify the air in your home or office. If artificial teardrops do not suffice, you may be a candidate for other treatment options.
Dry Eye Treatment Options
Restasis is an exciting new treatment for Dry Eye Disease. Restasis drops help the eyes produce more tears by reducing inflammation, which is often a cause of dry eye. Unlike artificial tears, Restasis is the first drug proven to effectively treat a cause of Dry Eye Disease rather than only temporarily alleviate symptoms.
Punctal occlusion is a medical treatment for dry eye that may enable your eyes to make better and longer use of the few lubricating tears they do produce.
Intense Pulsed Light (IPL)
Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) is a technology that has traditionally been used for improving the skin tone in areas with pigmented spots or unsightly blood vessels on the surface of the skin. More recently, it has been demonstrated to be an effective treatment for dry eyes.