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What is Dry Eye and How Do You Treat It?

Posted // Tuesday, July 16, 2013
By: Dr. Christian Hester

According to the National Eye Institute, dry eye affects nearly 5 MILLION Americans who are 50 years of age and older. While your risks increase with age, anyone can experience dry eye. Sometimes it’s a mild case that is simply irritating; but other times it can lead to severe damage to the eye. I got to discuss the risks and what you need to know about dry eye with Alyse Eady on THV Channel 11. You can view the interview and read more in-depth information below.

WHAT IS DRY EYE?

There are two main factors to dry eye.  The first is quantity — meaning you simply don’t produce enough tears to keep your eyes adequately hydrated and comfortable. The second is quality — it’s not enough to just produce tears to avoid dry eye, the tears have to be the right consistency and can’t evaporate too quickly.

Dry eye can be temporary, for example a woman might suffer it during pregnancy. Or it can be a chronic, life-long condition like if the person has a gland dysfunction affecting the eye lids.

WHO IS MORE LIKELY TO DEVELOP DRY EYE?

Women are more likely to suffer. Of the five million who have severe dry eye in this country, three million of them are women. Pregnancy and menopause can affect a woman’s tear production.

Other risk factors for inducing dry eye include:

  • Allergies
  • LASIK
  • Contacts
  • Certain Medications
  • Computer Screens
  • Autoimmune Disorders

 

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?

  • Stinging/Burning
  • Feels Like Something Is In Your Eye
  • Stringy Discharge
  • Pain/Redness
  • Blurred Vision
  • Heavy Eyelids
  • Eye Fatigue

 

HOW IS DRY EYE TREATED?

To effectively treat a patient’s dry eyes, you have to identify the cause. I like to group people into three categories: dry, droopy, or dysfunctional. If a person is dry, we can use artificial tears in mild cases but serum tears (artificial tears made from their blood) in more severe ones. Punctal plugs may also be placed in their tear drainage system in order to reduce the clearance of the tears.

Droopy conjunctiva occurs when the transparent membrane that overlies the white part of the eye blocks tears from properly distributing over the surface of the eye. The excess tissue can be removed through an in-office procedure.

Some people have dysfunctional meibomian glands, which are glands that are found in people’s eyelids. The lipids released from the glands mix with the water component of tears in order to reduce the rate tears evaporate. Changes in diet, nutritional supplements, and medications can be used to correct meibomian gland dysfunction. Also, in the dysfunctional category, people may have damage and drying of the eye surface due to dysfunctional blinking. Repetitive abnormal blinking can cause significant damage to the eye’s surface. When all else fails, we can cure these patients with Botox injections in the eyelids.

Be sure to check back next week for more information on dry eyes  and how to manage them, whether they’re feeling dried out, droopy or dysfunctional.