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Dry Eyes

The following information is taken from the Dry Eye pamphlet you can find in our office. If you think you may have dry eyes and would like to know what can be done to help you, please schedule an appointment.

 

Overview

Dry Eyes are unfortunately a very common problem we see in our office. This condition causes patients to experience varying degrees of redness, burning, and irritation as well as blurred vision.

While Dry Eyes can affect anyone there are certain factors that make it more likely that a person will get them. These include: age, female gender, medications (ex. antihistamines), autoimmune diseases, environmental factors (ex. cold, dry, windy Iowa winters), a history of eye surgeries, contact lens wear, and smoking.

Certain activities can also make our eyes more dry. When we work on the computer or read a book, we tend to blink a lot less than normal. This can also happen when we are driving and watching television. It’s unfortunately these times when we really want to focus and make things clear that our dry eyes can make things more blurry.

 

Dry Eye Anatomy

Tears are an important part of the health our eyes. The cornea is the clear dome that first receives the light signals that allows us to see clearly. The cornea contains no blood vessels, this is a good thing because otherwise our view would be obstructed. However, this means that oxygen and nourishment to the cornea must come from somewhere else — our tears. Tears also provide the necessary lubrication that prevents our eyes from being irritated or scratched every time we blink.

Tears are not just water. There are actually 3 distinct layers of the tears: a mucous layer that acts as a coating, a water layer made by the Lacrimal gland, and an oil layer that keeps the tears on the eye made by Meibomian glands near the eyelashes.

 

Types of Dry Eye

There are 2 main reasons we get dry eyes: 1.) we don’t make enough tears, 2.) the tears we make don’t stay on our eyes long enough to do their job.

The first type of dry eye is called aqueous-deficient dry eye and is commonly associated with the risk factors discussed earlier. The goal of therapy for this type of dry eye is to increase tear production and/or block the tear drainage system.

The second type of dry eye is called evaporative dry eye and studies have shown it’s actually the more common form. This type is caused by a blockage or obstruction of the oil producing Meibomian glands. This can be because of chronic eyelid inflammation called blepharitis or environmental factors. This blocked gland can even form a Stye, or hordeolum,  which is similar to a pimple, a blocked oil gland of the skin. The goal of therapy for this type of dry eye is to open the flow of those glands and to treat the inflammation.

 

Therapies

Dry eye is a chronic condition and there is no cure, but there are therapies which can help keep the signs and symptoms under control. These can include:

  • Artificial Tears – Mimic your own tears and act as a supplement

  • Warm compresses – Widens gland openings and thins out the oil secretions from Meibomian Glands

  • Lid Scrubs – Scrubs away debris and bacteria that can physically block gland openings

  • Omega-3 supplements – Daily dosages of 1000-2000mg have been shown to be beneficial for dry eyes

  • Anti-inflammatory medications – Ex. Ocular steroids

  • Dry Eye specific medications – Ex. Restasis

  • Antibiotic medications

  • Tear Drainage Plugs – Keeps the tears you make on the eye

  • Surgical procedures

 

How to Make a Warm Compress

Warm compresses are an important first line therapy for evaporative dry eye. There are simple solutions you can make at home and ready made solutions you can purchase.

Solutions you can purchase

  • Tranquileyes – Specific brand of moisture containing goggles we have available for purchase at our office

  • Heatable night masks

Solutions you can make at home

  • Take a clean cotton sock and fill it with 1 cup of uncooked rice. Tie a knot in the sock. Heat the rice-filled sock in the microwave until very warm, but not scalding. Place over your closed eyelids for about 10 minutes.

  • Run a clean washcloth under water and then ring out the excess. Place in the microwave until very warm, but not scalding. Place over closed eyelids. Will need to re-warm and reapply frequently for a total of 10 minutes.