Dry eye disease is a condition where there is a chronic lack of moisture on the surface of the eye. This causes a vicious cycle of eyelid inflammation, leading to an imbalance in the tear layer that lubricates the eyes, which then leads to cell damage. If your eyes feel gritty, or if they sting or burn, you may be experiencing symptoms of dry eye. Other common symptoms include redness, watering, and blurred vision.
Possible Causes of Dry Eye Disease:
Dry eye is a multifactorial disease. Dry eye occurs when you produce fewer or poor-quality tears and are unable to maintain proper lubrication on the eye’s surface. It can by caused by:
- Laser or cataract surgery
- Hormonal changes
- Air pollution or dry/dusty climates
- Air conditioning or heated environments
- Contact lens wear
- Excessive screen use
Dry eye can also be associated with auto-immune diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disease, Sjogren’s syndrome, and inflammatory conditions such as blepharitis and rosacea.
How Do We Test For/Diagnose Dry Eye Disease?
Dry eye can be diagnosed during a regular eye exam when your eyes are viewed with the slit lamp biomicroscope. Further diagnostic testing, including vital dye staining and imaging of the Meibomian glands (oil glands in the eyelids), can help in assessing the level of dry eye.
How Do We Treat Dry Eyes?
Just as there are many causes that contribute to dry eye, there are many treatments that can be combined to provide relief. Our treatment approach will depend on the individual we are treating and will evolve over time as new research and new technologies emerge.
The goal with treatment is to break the inflammatory cycle and improve your symptoms. In general, our treatments aim to clean up the eyelids, improve functioning of the oil glands, reduce inflammation, and encourage production of healthy balanced tears. We offer in-office procedures to clear bacterial biofilm from the eyelids and unclog the Meibomian glands. We also provide at-home treatments to enhance and maintain the results of the in-office procedures. Sometimes we prescribe medicated drops and work with other health professionals to manage an individual’s dry eyes.