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Dry Eye

Many patients suffer from dry and irritated eyes. In a healthy eye the natural tears that are produces will lubricate and protect the eye, keeping it feeling comfortable. When there is a decrease in the amount of tears available or there is a decline in the quality of the tears then the eyes will become dry and feel uncomfortable. This can also cause a number of other symptoms including burning, scratching, itching, blurry vision, red eyes or watery eyes.

Extrinsic factors that contribute to dryness include contact lens wear, smoking, overusing eye drops, and computer use. For contact lens wearers, changing the contact lens solution, using rewetting drops, decreasing wear time, or switching to a daily disposable contact lenses could help. The smoke from cigarette smoke can dry the eyes and cause irritation. Using too many eye drops with preservatives may cause irritation and toxicity to the front surface of the eye. If this is suspected, switching to a preservative free version of the eye drop would be beneficial, however consult with your eye care professional first.

For people who use the computer all day, dryness is a serious concern. Studies have shown that people do not blink fully or as frequent when staring at a computer monitor. I recommend taking breaks often to briefly close your eyes to refresh your tears and using an artificial tear drop to keep the eyes lubricated if needed.

It is important to have an eye care professional closely examine your eyes to look for eyelid anomalies and evaluate the quality and quantity of the tears in your eyes. An example of an eyelid anomaly would be an eyelid turned inward or outward, which would disrupt the normal distribution of the tear layer over the eye. An eye care professional will also evaluate the glands in the eyelid, called meibomian glands. These glands produce oils which contribute to and determine the quality of the tears. Warm compresses, omega-3 supplements and artificial tears could be sufficient if mildly disrupted.  More severe cases may require antibiotics or steroids.

There are tests that can be performed in the office during your eye exam that can measure the amount of tear production that you have. In cases where there is a decrease in the amount of tears that you produce, replacing the tears with an artificial tear, will be beneficial. Depending on how often you need to use artificial tears, a preservative free eye drop may be better for your eyes. Punctal plugs are a good option to retain the tears on the front surface of the eye, so they do not drain as quickly. In some cases of very chronically dry eyes, Sjogren’s syndrome may be suspected. Sjogren’s syndrome is a chronic, progressive autoimmune disease and we have the ability to order blood tests to screen you for this disorder if we feel you may have Sjogren's syndrome.

Due to the vary complex nature of dry eyes, it is important to have your eyes evaluated by an eye care professional to determine the underlying cause and type of dry eye that you suffer from. There are numerous treatment options and it is important that a doctor work with you to find the best one for you. Dry eyes are often a chronic disorder that will require constant treatment and monitoring.

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