Dry eye disease is a common eye condition that affects around 5 million Americans. It has been a rising problem over the past 5-10 years due to increased screen time and computer work. It is caused by a decrease in the number of stable tears on the surface of the eye. Tears protect the surface of the eye by rinsing away dust and debris and keeping the ocular surface smooth for clear vision. When dry eye disease is not treated, it can cause damage to the cornea and the surface of the eye.
Symptoms & Causes of Dry Eye Syndrome
There are two types of dry eye: dry eye from evaporated tears and dry eye from decreased tear production, with the evaporative dry eye being the most common type.
Patients suffering from dry eye disease can experience redness, burning, tearing, stinging, blurred vision, and/or a foreign body sensation. These symptoms can be very uncomfortable and make it difficult to perform daily activities like reading and computer work. Dry eye disease can also lead to discomfort with contact lens wear, especially towards the end of the day.
Dry eye disease is seen more in people over age 50, in women, along with certain medications like antihistamines, and with some medical conditions like Sjogren’s syndrome. It can also be caused by decreased blinking (like when staring at a computer screen), preservatives in medication eye drops, dry air, and windy environments. Many patients also experience dry eye disease due to clogged Meibomian glands, which are the glands along the eyelid margin that produce the outer oily layer of tears. This is called Meibomian Gland Dysfunction.
Dry Eye Treatments
- Simple daily changes: Drink plenty of water, get a good night’s sleep, take frequent breaks from screen time, use a humidifier at home, turn off the ceiling fan while you sleep, avoid windy conditions, and turn car vents so they don’t blow at your eyes.
- Over-the-counter artificial teardrops: These can be used to help supplement your natural tears and lubricate the surface of the eyes. Preservative-free artificial tear drops are also available and are more gentle on the surface of the eyes.
- Warm compresses or heated masks: These can be used daily for 5 minutes to help increase tear flow.
- Punctal plugs: These are tiny plugs that are inserted into the tear ducts to keep the tears that are produced on the eye and allow fewer tears to flow out through the tear ducts.
- Supplements: Fish oils supplements and supplements like Hydroeye by Science-Based Health contain omega-3 fatty acids which help increase and stabilize tear production.
- Prescription eye drops: Several prescription eye drops, such as Restasis, Xiidra, and Cequa, are available for the treatment of dry eye and work by decreasing surface inflammation and increasing tear production.
- Scleral contact lenses: These are large-diameter gas permeable contact lenses that help provide a reservoir of tears across the corneal surface to keep the cornea coated with tears.
- Autologous serum tears: Lubricating eye drops can be made from your own blood serum and sterile saline solution. These drops provide nutrients to the ocular surface that are more similar to those found in your own natural tears.
- TearCare: This is a new in-office treatment that works by applying targeted thermal energy directly on the eyelids. The specific temperature created targets the thickened oil that clogs the Meibomian glands within the eyelids. The warmth melts the thickened oil which is then expressed out of the glands with a special tool. The TearCare procedure works well to open the Meibomian glands and allow for normal flow and good tear production. It is a comfortable procedure and works well to increase and stabilize natural tears.
The TearCare procedure is now being performed in all Northeast Ohio Eye Surgeons offices by Dr. David Beckett and Dr. Amy Fernandez. We are one of the only offices in Northeast Ohio to offer this treatment. A comprehensive eye examination is needed to determine the severity, cause, and best treatment for each individual.
“Dry Eye” National Eye Institute, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
“TearCare” Sight Sciences, www.tearcare.com