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Dry Eye Center

Dry eye effects more than 80 million people, with rates rising every year. Many studies have shown dry eye symptoms are the most common reason for frequent visits to the eye specialist and can affect the quality of life. Symptoms may include blurred vision, sandy-gritty feeling, irritation, redness, burning, tearing, stickiness in the morning, increase in symptoms at the end of the day, or tiredness of the eyes. If your eyes feel tired or your vision blurs after working on the computer or reading, your eyes tear or get irritated in windy or dry conditions, or you have redness, crusting, burning or irritation, you may have dry eye.

What Is Dry Eye Disease?

Dry eye is an inflammatory condition that effects the surface of the eye and is caused by dysfunction of the tear film. The tear film is the protective layer of tears that coat the ocular surface and is important for clear vision and comfort.

Tear film dysfunction can be broken down into two basic classifications: the eye is unable to produce enough tears or the tear film is not properly balanced to keep the ocular surface lubricated and comfortable due to an increase in evaporation of the tear film. As often occurs, there is a combination of tear film dysfunctions. 

Since the tear film consists of lipid, aqueous, and mucin components, there can be a deficiency in any or multiple layers of the tear film.

  • Meibomian Gland Dysfunction or Blepharitis: The Meibomian glands are responsible for the oil layer of the tear film and dysfunction in this outer layer leads to increased evaporation of the tears. Learn more about blepharitis.
  • Aqueous Tear Deficiency: The lacrimal gland makes the aqueous layer of the tear film and dysfunction may lead to insufficient tear production. This can be due to increasing age, contact lens wear, hormonal changes, medications, diabetes, Sjögren’s syndrome and other autoimmune diseases, Parkinson’s disease and Spectrum.
  • Mucin Deficiency: This is the least common cause of dry eye and can be due to chemical injury of the ocular surface, Stevens-Johnson syndrome, mucus-membrane pemphigoid, and vitamin A deficiency. Mucin is formed by goblet cells in the conjunctival surface and helps distribute the tear film across the ocular surface.

Causes of Dry Eye

Although there are a variety of causes of dry eye, aging is the most common factor. As people age, the production of tears decreases. Although it occurs in women and men, post-menopausal women are most affected.

Other causes of dry eye can include systemic diseases such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, hypothyroidism, Graves' disease (which can cause exposure related dry eye), graft versus host disease (GvHD), scleroderma, and Sjögren's syndrome. Certain systemic and topical medications can cause dry eye as well.

Environmental conditions such as dry, windy, or smoky environments may contributes as can reduced blink rate while reading or looking at a computer screen for long periods of time, contact lens wear and certain make up or eye creams too near the eye.

Dry eye symptoms include a dry, gritty or burning sensation in the eyes, redness, watery or teary eyes and mucus that make the eyes feel "glued shut" after sleeping. Many people also report the feeling of something in the eye or eyestrain. Itching and light sensitivity may also occur. Symptoms are usually worse late in the day.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Dry eye may be diagnosed based on a combination of symptoms and findings on comprehensive eye examination. Our team of specialists use a variety of tests including measuring tear production, special dyes, and evaluation of the constitution of the tear film in order to confirm the diagnosis. We perform a comprehensive ocular evaluation to rule out other ocular conditions that can mimic dry eye symptoms. Our doctors have a particular interest in dry eye and caring for patients with dry eye disease as well as other ocular surface diseases. Treatment is tailored to the individual patient.

If dry eye is left untreated, it may damage tissue and scar the cornea. Treatment of dry eye is directed at stabilizing the tear film, reducing inflammation, improving the work/home environment and evaluating overall health, medications and diet.

The causes of dry eye are often complex and multifaceted. Dry eye is an ongoing disease and requires ongoing treatment. Our physicians tailor your treatment to help optimize improvement for your condition. We utilize a range of diagnostic tools and treatments to provide the best care possible.

Therapeutics may include:

  • Lubricant tear solutions or ointments to rewet the ocular surface and stabilize the tear film.
  • Punctal plugs to preserve tears and increase lubrication of the ocular surface.
  • Warm compress treatments and other holistic therapies including modifications in diet or supplements, in addition to lifestyle changes. 
  • Medicated eye drops to reduce ocular surface inflammation, increase tear production, and improve the health of the tear film.
  • Eliminate or reduce environmental factors such as dryness and dust.
  • Treatment of the different types of tear dysfunction including treatment of blepharitis and ocular allergies.
  • Evaluation of medications, increased blinking, treatment of associated medical problems may also play a role and will be assessed.

Our goal is to achieve long-term results, we will work with you to find your optimal therapeutic treatment plan.