Dry Eye

What Is Dry Eye?

Dry eye is a common condition that happens when your eyes can't produce enough tears or tears of adequate quality. Without lubrication and moisture, your eyes can become uncomfortable and prone to infection. At Columbia Vision Center, we have been providing Seattle residents with reliable eye care services for many years. Read on to learn more about dry eye and how we can help you find relief.

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Causes of Dry Eye

There are two primary causes of dry eye: not enough tears or low-quality tears.

  • Low tear production: Your eyes may stop making enough tears due to age, medications such as antihistamines and blood-pressure drugs, or health problems including lupus and vitamin A deficiency. For women, pregnancy and menopause can affect tear production.   
  • Low-quality tears: Some people produce tears that are unable to lubricate the eye. High-quality tears are made of aqueous fluid, mucus, and oils. If one of those substances is imbalanced, the tears aren't able to form a healthy film across your eye. This can happen in connection with gland problems, certain health conditions, allergies, or hormonal shifts.

In some cases, your environment can contribute to dry eye. Extremely dry or windy climates can cause tears to dry quickly, so they don't have a chance to lubricate your eyes. If you spend most of the day behind a computer, low blink volume can have a similar effect.

Risk Factors for Dry Eye

Anyone can experience dry eye, but the following factors increase your risk:

  • Age of 50+
  • Female gender
  • Wearing contact lenses
  • Working or living in dry, windy, or smoky environments
  • Taking medications such as antidepressants, decongestants, and antihistamines
  • Health conditions including diabetes, eyelid inflammation, and rheumatoid arthritis

Dry Eye Symptoms

The symptoms of dry eye are usually obvious; they may be mild at first and increase in intensity. Some common symptoms that an optometrist looks for are:

  • Stinging or burning feeling
  • Scratchy or gritty sensation, as though something is stuck in the eye
  • Excessive eye watering
  • Red eyes
  • Sensitivity to bright lights
  • Blurred vision

Diagnosing Dry Eye

If you're struggling with symptoms of dry eye, it's time to book an optometry appointment. Your eye doctor will dilate your eyes with drops and conduct a comprehensive exam. To diagnose dry eye, the doctor will look closely at your eyelids, check tear production, and measure dry times.

Dry Eye Treatments

Many cases of dry eye can be treated with artificial tears; these over-the-counter drops help lubricate your eyes. If the condition is more advanced, cyclosporine medications may stimulate tear production. Other potential treatments include environmental changes, behavioral changes, tear duct plugs, and surgery to tighten loose eyelids.

Schedule an Appointment with Our Eye Doctor in Seattle

Call Columbia Vision Center today at (206) 382-6682 for more information on dry eye or to schedule an appointment with our optometrist.

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