What Is Dry Eye?
Dry eye disease, as we know it now, is a multifactorial disease of the ocular surface characterized by a loss of homeostasis of the tear film. While it is sometimes without obvious symptoms, dry eye is accompanied by burning, watering, and blurry or fluctuating vision. When the tear film is out of balance, your eyes can become uncomfortable and prone to infection. Dry eye is a chronic and progressive condition that effects quality of life by its host of ocular symptoms and its ability to impact patient productivity at work and home. 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.
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 30+
- Female>male gender
- Wearing contact lenses
- Working on screens and devices for many hours
- Previous refractive laser surgery
- Taking medications such as antidepressants, decongestants, antihistamine, chemotherapy
- Using the wrong kinds of eyedrops
- Health conditions including diabetes, autoimmune conditions
Dry Eye Symptoms
The symptoms of dry eye are not always obvious. They may be mild at first and increase in intensity. Some symptoms include:
- Stinging or burning feeling
- Scratchy or gritty sensation, as though something is in the eye
- Occasional or constant watering
- Red eyes
- Sensitivity to 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 the quality of your tear film, and check for ocular inflammation.
Dry Eye Treatments
Many cases of dry eye can be treated with dry eye masks and eyelid cleaning products. Dry eye cleaning products will reduce the bacterial load which is known to disrupt the tear film quality. Heat will soften the oils, allowing for easier release from the meibomian glands. Studies have proven that meibomian secretions melt at 32 – 45°C (89.6 – 113°F). It takes up to 8 minutes for heat to fully penetrate the tarsal plates and reach 40°C at the inner eyelid. A good quality dry eye mask must provide sterile, moist, uniform heat that maintains extended warmth for the entire 8 – 10 minute treatment. If the condition is more advanced, prescription medications may stimulate tear production. Other potential treatments include environmental changes, behavioral changes, and new technology in laser treatments.
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.