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Home » Eye Care Services » Dry Eye Disease and Treatment

Dry Eye Disease and Treatment

Dry eye syndrome (DES) is a chronic condition that develops when your eyes do not produce and maintain enough tears to keep the eye’s surface lubricated resulting in multiple symptoms that range from person to person. This can be due to a reduction in tear production or increased tear evaporation from a lack of lipid in the tears that stem from oil glands in the eyelids. The effects can range from minor dryness and discomfort to pain, blurred vision and frequent infections.

Symptoms of Dry Eye Disease

Symptoms of dry eye syndrome can vary depending on the severity of the condition but can include:

  • Dry, itchy eyes
  • Burning or stinging
  • Irritation
  • Watery eyes
  • Blurred vision
  • Pain
  • Foreign body sensation

The main function of tears is to maintain the health of the cornea of your eye by washing away foreign matter and ensuring that the surface of your eye remains moist, smooth and clear. Tears also rinse away dust particles from your eyes and contain enzymes that protect your eyes from bacteria that can cause infections. Dry eyes is a condition that develops when the amount of tears produced is not sufficient to maintain the moisture balance in your eye. This can result in that scratchy sensation, a continuous feeling of dryness, stinging and a sensation of a foreign body in your eye. Ironically in an effort to fight off the condition, dry eyes can cause you to produce excessive tears, which is why some people experience watery eyes.

Causes of Dry Eye Disease

Dry eyes can occur naturally as a result of aging or hormonal changes, typically in women who are pregnant, taking oral contraceptives or going through menopause. In fact, women over 50 have a 50% greater risk of dry eye disease than men do of the same age. It can also result from taking certain medications that reduce tear production such as antihistamines, blood pressure medications and antidepressants. Environmental factors can also play a role in drying out the eyes and DED is common in areas where the climate is dry, dusty and windy. Home air conditioners or heating systems and excessive time spent staring at a computer or television screen can also dry out eyes and exacerbate symptoms due to the lack of blinking while staring at our screens.

Individuals that suffer from certain medical conditions such as diabetes, blepharitis, lupus, arthritis and thyroid problems are more vulnerable to developing DED. Other causes can be due to eye surgery including LASIK, certain conditions in which the eyelids don’t close properly or extended contact lens use.

Diagnosis of Dry Eye Disease

Typically, dry eye disease can be diagnosed through a comprehensive eye exam and a description of your symptoms. On some occasions the eye doctor might decide to do a test that measures how quickly your tears evaporate from the surface of your eye. By instilling a simple dye called fluorescein (much like food coloring) the doctor is able to watch and count how long it takes the tears to start to break up after they’ve asked you to hold your eyes open after a blink. This is called TBUT or a Tear Break Up Time test. A low TBUT generally indicates a lipid (aka oil) deficiency in the tears resulting from oil glands in the eyelids not functioning properly. In another type of test, called a Schirmer test, a strip of filter paper is placed under the lid of the eye and you will be asked to close your eye for five minutes. Following the test the amount of moisture on the strip will be measured. Schirmer tests are performed less frequently than a TBUT test.

Treatment for Dry Eyes

There are many treatment options for dry eyes which are highly dependant upon the cause and severity of the condition. Many mild forms of DED can be alleviated using artificial tears or lubricant eye drops to make up for the lack of natural tears usually produced by your eyes. If over-the-counter drops don’t alleviate your symptoms, your doctor might prescribe prescription drops that actually stimulate tear production or steroids for short-term relief.

More severe cases of dry eyes might be treated with a punctal insert which is a tiny insert containing a slow-release lubricating substance that is placed inside the lower eyelid. Since DED is often related to eyelid inflammation known as blepharitis your doctor may prescribe a heated hot compress mask, specialty eyelid scrubs and sometimes an antibiotic ointment. Finally, punctal plugs might be recommended for severe cases which would be inserted into the tear ducts to reduce the tear drainage in your eyes to keep them from drying out.

If the cause of your dry eyes is something external or environmental, eliminating that cause may solve the problem and resolve the symptoms. Avoid dry environments, hair dryers, heaters and fans, (particularly directed toward the eyes) and smoky environments and wear eye protection such as wrap around glasses or goggles when in dusty or windy areas. Use a humidifier to add moisture to dry indoor air. If working on computer or watching television, make sure to blink purposefully as our natural tendency is to reduce our blink rate when staring at a screen. Also avoid rubbing your eyes as this can further irritate them. Staying hydrated by drinking at least 8 to 10 glasses of water per day can also help.

In cases where discontinuation or switching to different medications is possible this can eradicate symptoms. Your doctor may also recommend that you limit or refrain from contact lens use for a certain amount of time or switch to a different brand or type of contact lens which will reduce dehydration.

Dry eye disease won’t have a permanent effect on your vision, but there is no reason to endure dry, itchy and uncomfortable eyes, especially since there are so many treatment options to increase moisture and comfort. It’s also important to realize that this is a chronic disease that needs consistent treatment. Your doctor will work with you to create a long term strategy to keep your eyes as comfortable as possible.

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Update on COVID-19 (03/30/2020)

We wanted to thank you for your continued support of our office during this challenging time. We will continue to be open from 9:00am-1:00pm Monday through Friday to dispense contact lens and eyeglasses orders. We will also be able to order additional contact lenses for patients who may be running low.

While all routine eye care is still deferred during this time, we will remain available to triage eye emergencies. We will send out additional notifications as soon as it becomes possible to resume routine eyecare.

Please call or text us at (904)287-4567 or email us at cfec2@2drfishers.com with any questions for concerns.

*****CONTACT WEARERS*****

With the day to day changes surrounding COVID-19, we do not know how much longer we will be open to the public. With that being said, if you are a contact lens wearer, and currently have less than a 3 month supply of lenses, we highly recommend that you place an order now. We will offer free shipping on lenses directly to your home (with a minimum of 2 boxes). We will also extend contact lenses prescriptions, as needed, for those expiring within the next three months.

Please call or text us at (904)287-4567 or email us at cfec2@2drfishers.com.

Hours: As of March 30, we will be open from 9:00am – 1:00pm Monday through Friday only to dispense contact lens and eyeglass orders. We will have a doctor available to see ocular emergencies if needed.

Routine Eye Exams: If you are scheduled for a routine eye examination appointment during our closure, we will reschedule your appointment. As of March 30, 2020, we will begin rescheduling routine eye examination appointments for April 13th and later.

I need to replace my glasses. What do I do? Please contact us at (904)287-4567. We may be able to extend your prescription during this time and will help you with your eyewear needs.

I’m nearly out of contact lenses. What do I do? Please contact us at (904)287-4567. We may be able to extend your prescription during this time, and/or place an order for your contact lenses and have them shipped to your house (with a minimum of 2 boxes).

I need a refill on the medication prescribed to me by the practice. What do I do? Please contact us at (904)287-4567 or cfec2@2drfishers.com. We can transmit a refill for your prescription directly to your pharmacy so that you have the medication that you need.

I need to pick up my order. What do I do? We will be open from 9:00am – 1:00pm Monday through Friday only to dispense contact lens and eyeglass orders.

I don’t feel comfortable coming into the office to pick up my order. What do I do? Please contact us at (904)287-4567 and we can bring your contact lens or glasses order out to your car. Since we are working with reduced staff, please allow us extra time for curbside pick-up. Also, when you place your contact lens order, you can elect to have them shipped to your home.

What about an eye emergency after your shortened business hours? What can I do? If you have an ocular emergency, please call (904)287-4567 and wait for instructions at the end of the message.

Our doctors will do their best to accommodate your needs whenever possible during this time. We have reduced our staff hours until further notice to protect them, our patients, our community, and our nation. Despite the financial and emotional hardships this will cause, we ask every one of you to do the same.

Together, we will weather this storm.