Dry eye is a very common condition which the eye does not make sufficient tears to lubricate and nourish itself. In Utah, our high altitude and dry climate often make symptoms much worse. Other certain factors including the natural aging process, extended contact lens wear, certain medical conditions and even cold medicines can also exacerbate this condition.
Most contact lens wearers experience dry eyes at some point with many discontinuing or limiting lest wear because of discomfort. Dry eye is a significant finding in patients having undergone refractive surgery, especially LASIK. A diet low in omega-3 fatty acids can also increase the risk of dry eye syndrome. Various medicines including chemotherapy, diuretics, antidepressants, antihistamines and betaadrenergic blockers may cause dry eyes as a side effect of the medication.
A person with dry eye syndrome may experience dry gritty/scratchy, or filmy feeling, burning or itching, redness of the eyes, blurred vision, foreign body sensation, and light sensitivity. Symptoms seem to worsen in dry or windy climates and with higher temperature and lower humidity. Symptoms may also be worse with prolonged use of the eyes (e.g. while reading and watching TV) and toward the end of the day. Sometimes a symptom of dry eye syndrome may actually be intermittent excessive tearing.
There is no cure for dry eye; however, there are certain treatment options available to help reduce its effects including:
1. Lubrication drops can provide short term relief and comfort without prescription.
2. A home humidifier puts moister into the air.
3. Hot compresses and eyelid scrubs/massage with baby shampoo can help.
4. Taking fish oil or flax seed oil tablets (or other high quality source of omega-3 fatty acids) every day can often be helpful in alleviating symptoms of dry eye.
5. Punctal plugs can be inserted to help with the natural tear flow.
6. Certain vitamins have been shown to significantly help dry eye syndrome
7. Restasis is a prescription medicine that can make a big impact on treating dry eye. Clyclosporine A 0.5% (Restasis) helps decrease any inflammation on the surface of the eye.
8. Avoiding caffeine can also help migraine symptoms
We are also an Accredited Tear Lab office. This enables our office to perform a simple, yet accurate measurement of the osmolarity of your tears. One of our dry eye specialists can evaluate your symptoms and prescribe the best treatment plan for you.
As part of your eye examination, the following tests may be performed:
- The front of the eyes is examined using a special microscope, called a slit lamp.
- The amount of thickness of the tear film are inspected.
- The stability of the tear film is assessed by checking the tear breakup time.
- The conjunctiva is examined to determine if it is too dry.
- The cornea is checked to see if it has dried out or become damaged.
The osmolarity (salt content) of the tears may also be measured. This is a new test which has been developed to aid in the diagnosis of dry eye syndrome, in which tear osmolarity is increased over normal levels.