Dry Eye Disease

Dry Eye Disease, also known as Dry Eye Syndrome or Ocular Surface Disease occurs when there aren’t enough tears being made from the glands or when the tears dry up and evaporate too fast between each blink.  Many times, Dry Eye Disease is caused by both issues.

How The Tears Work:

tearfilmWe all have a thin layer of tears that prevents us from feeling the eyes when we blink.  This “film” of tears is made up of three layers: a water layer, oil layer, and a mucus layer.  Much like an ecosystem of the ocean each layer of the tears must be kept in balance.  Each layer is made by different glands or cells, any of which can contribute to an imbalance in the tear film quality and thus, lead to dry eye.

Why Does Dry Eye Occur:

Every time you blink, the tears are wiped away, drained out, and then redistributed across the the front surface of the eyes.  When functioning optimally, the tear film is evenly spread out across the smooth surface of the eyes in between each blink (when the eyes are open).  Dry Eye usually occurs because there is not enough tear liquid produced by the glands or because the tear film evaporates too quickly before the next blink occurs.

How is Dry Eye Disease Diagnosed?

Dry eye diagnosed by an eye care professional during an eye examination but more testing is usually required to determine the depth of the problem.  During the exam or during a separate Dry Eye Assessment, the doctor will usually evaluate the following:

  • Patient History & Symptoms: Patients may be given a survey to determine the the symptoms and to review possible medications, health problems and/or environmental triggers which could be causing the dry eye.
  • External Evaluation of the Eyes and Eyelids:  The eyelid mechanics, the glands and the front surface of the eyes (cornea and conjunctiva) are assessed through a biomicroscope to help determine a cause.
  • Tear Film Quantity and Quality:  Various colored dyes or stains may be used to assess the quality and consistency of the tears, their quantity and how fast they evaporate on the eye’s surface.

How is Dry Eye Disease Treated?

There are many safe, non-invasive treatments for Dry Eye Disease.  Since it is a chronic condition, the goal of the treatment is usually to make the patient’s eyes feel comfortable and reduce the symptoms.  The treatments depend on the cause and severity and may include one or a combination of the following:

  • Remove environmental triggers which may be causing or exacerbating the dry eye
  • Preservative-Free Artificial Tears of Gels
  • Nutritional changes or supplements like Omega 3 fatty acids to enhance the gland functioning
  • Low dose Doxycycline taken daily to enhance the gland functioning
  • Steroid eye drops to treat a form of dry eye caused by inflammation
  • Punctal Plugs: Small silicone or collagen plugs may be inserted into the tear ducts which block the tears from being drained off the cornea too quickly.