What is Dry Eye Syndrome?
Dry Eye Syndrome (DES) is the most common eye problem in America. Dry Eye has many causes and results in many signs and symptoms. DES is due to the tears being produced not having the proper components. This is often due to an upregulation of inflammation on the surface of the eye. Because of this, the tears are of poor quality which leads to evaporation of the tears too quickly and improper supply of nutrients to the front of the eye. This can lead to pain, burning, itching, light sensitivity, intermittently blurry vision, watering, redness, and other symptoms.
Wait...My Eyes are Watering How Are They Dry??
The most common question heard by eye doctors after they tell a patient they have DES. A very common reason the eyes excessively water is due to a reflex loop. When the eyes are dry, the eyes send a signal to the brain that they are dry, and then the brain sends the water works. This sounds like a good idea on paper, but when the brain sends the water like that- the tears are of poor quality. This reflex tearing typically makes the eyes more dry.
What causes Dry Eye Syndrome?
There are numerous causes of DES. Often it is a change that happens from just having birthdays and the quality of the tears produce gets worse.
In the era of smartphones, tablets, and computers; a major cause of DES is a decreased blink rate. There have been studies that show a person should blink ~20 times in a minute, but when working on a computer people only blink ~5-10 times a minute. When a person blinks, that is what spreads new tears across the eyes. So, if there is less blinking there is less spreading of fresh tears, therefore the eyes become dry.
Some other causes of DES include inflammatory conditions (ie Rheumatoid Arthritis), medications (ie Antihistamines like Benadryl), dehydration, hormonal changes (ie pregnancy and menopause), and separate eye conditions (like blepharitis).
How is it Treated?
DES has many treatment options. Baseline treatment includes using artificial tears and warm compresses. Artificial tears are basically good quality tears that can be used since the tears in patients with DES are of poor quality. They help lubricate the eyes and help relieve symptoms. Using artificial tears is like using lotion on dry skin; it may take multiple applications but it will help. Warm compresses are used because in DES, the oil glands often get clogged. When they are clogged, they do not secrete part of the tear film. Applying heat breaks up the oil and allows it to be secreted.
If symptoms are still persistent with baseline treatment there are still many other options for managing DES. Prescription eye drops, eyelid scrubs, oral medications, specialty contact lenses, amniotic membranes, tear duct plugs, and often a combination of two or more of the aforementioned are necessary.
How Gilbert Eyecare Can Help:
Our doctors at Gilbert Eyecare can evaluate your eyes for DES and determine a proper treatment plan. Our doctors often will use Tear Osmolarity testing to evaluate the dryness in addition to patient symptoms and examination findings to help manage the condition. Tear Osmolarity looks at the salt content of the tears to help quantify dryness.
Gilbert Eyecare doctors utilize all of the newest available technology and treatment options for patients with DES. Contact us at (757) 704-5603 (Norfolk) or (757) 704-5570 (Virginia Beach) for DES consultation.