It’s estimated that more than 30 million adults in the United States have dry eyes, and the uncomfortable symptoms of irritation or grittiness are one of the most common reasons that people head to the eye doctor.
Dry eye syndrome is not only a common condition, it’s also usually a chronic problem, particularly for people over the age of 50. The condition occurs when the quantity and/or quality of tears aren’t sufficient to keep the surface of the eye adequately lubricated. As a result, symptoms can include:
- Blurry vision
- Sensitivity to light
Our eyes are covered in a protective film of basal tears made up of three layers: a mucous layer covering the cornea, a middle aqueous layer that’s mostly saltwater, and an outer lipid layer that seals in lubrication and reduces evaporation.
The right balance of these three layers of basal tears is necessary for lubricating, cleaning, and disinfecting the surface of our eyes. When tear quality or production is inadequate, it may become quickly obvious that your eyes feel dry. However, understanding what’s causing your tear imbalance is important for finding the best treatment.
Dry Eye Diagnosis
There are certain tests that your eye doctor may perform to get to the bottom of what might be causing your dry eye symptoms. These tests include:
- Epithelial Staining: Eye drops with a temporary dye allow your eye doctor to evaluate how quickly your tears evaporate and to show any areas on the surface of the eye that don’t have adequate lubrication.
- The Schirmer Test: A small strip of blotting paper is gently placed under each of your lower eyelids to measure the amount of tears your eyes produce.
- Meibomian Gland Evaluation: When you blink, glands along the edges of your eyelids express an oily substance that helps keep your tears from drying out. Your doctor can examine these glands through a magnifying lens to determine if they have become blocked or aren’t producing enough oil.
- Tear Chemistry: A sample of your tears may also be evaluated for a more detailed report of your tear production.
Dry Eye Treatment
Once your eye doctor has a clear understanding of what’s causing your dry eye symptoms, he or she can recommend the right treatment regimen. Mild dry eye symptoms may be treated with over-the-counter medications like artificial tears, gels, or ointments. In more severe cases, prescription eye drops may be recommended.
Warm eyelid compresses or scrubs may be helpful in cases of Meibomian gland dysfunction. In other cases, lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking or changing medications are beneficial. The bottom line is that understanding the severity and cause of your dry eye symptoms will allow your eye doctor to properly guide a treatment strategy.
If you are fed up with your dry eye symptoms, it’s time to find out what is causing your dry eyes and which treatment options are available. Doing so will not only provide relief but also protect your eyes, which is important for your overall eye health.
At Hardin Valley Eyecare & Optical Dr. Travis Thompson helps many patients manage several common eye diseases, including dry eye syndrome.
Since 2009, Hardin Valley Eyecare & Optical has provided the highest quality vision care products and trusted optometry services to our patients in Knoxville and the surrounding areas. Our eye care professionals are dedicated to providing exceptional personal service to each and everyone who walks through our door. Call us at (865) 246-1500 or contact us to schedule an appointment.