One of the most common reasons why people visit The Eye Health Centre is to find relief from dry eye disease. If you experience unrelenting eye dryness, itching or irritation or blurry vision due to these symptoms, we can reduce your symptoms and restore your eyes to good health. At The Eye Health Centre, our ophthalmologists and optometrists combine knowledge, experience and breakthrough technology to help you achieve your ocular health goals.
What Causes Dry Eye Disease?
Ideally, eyes should be bathed in a consistent layer of tears. This tear film protects the surface of the eyes and keeps vision clear and the eyes comfortable. Dry eye occurs when the eyes fail to produce the appropriate quantity or quality of tears to stay moist and comfortable. This can occur due to underlying health conditions, medications, hormonal changes, environmental conditions and other factors.
Dry eye cases are classified as either aqueous deficient dry eye or evaporative dry eye. Aqueous deficient dry eye stems from a problem with the lacrimal glands, which are responsible for producing and secreting the watery layer of the tear film. Evaporative dry eye is caused by a problem with the meibomian glands, which produce and secrete the oily layer of tear film. Without these oils, tears evaporate prematurely from the surface of the eyes, and the eyes dry out.
Dry Eye Syndrome Symptoms?
The symptoms of dry eye disease are varied, and not everyone experiences the same ones. Your possible symptoms could include any of the following:
- Red eyes
- Itchy eyes
- Burning eyes
- The feeling that something is stuck in your eyes
- Excessive tearing
- Difficulty or discomfort wearing contact lenses
- Blurry vision
A dry eye screening will confirm or rule out dry eyes. During the screening, our doctors will ask you about your symptoms and perform a full evaluation of your eyes and eyelids, looking for abnormalities or signs of a problem. We will also measure the moisture of your tears.
Dry Eye Treatment Options
After we have learned more about your dry eye symptoms and identified the factors contributing to your case, we can recommend one or more of the following solutions:
Artificial Tears and Medicated Eye Drops
The first line of defense against dry eye disease is usually the use of artificial tears or eye drops to restore moisture to the eyes.
We can place tiny plugs in the tear drainage canals to reduce the rate of tear drainage and keep your eyes bathed in tears for longer periods of time.
The Blephasteam device uses therapeutic heat to melt thickened oil secretions blocking meibomian glands. This restores the natural production and secretion of the oily layer of the tear film.
We use the BlephEx instrument to clean the eyelid rims and lashes of any debris that could contribute to blepharitis, or eyelid inflammation that has been linked to cases of dry eye.
Autologous Serum Tears
Autologous serum tears are made from your own blood serum and plasma. The tears help restore the ocular surface to good health in cases of severe dry eyes.
Intense Pulsed Light (IPL)
We can perform intense pulsed light treatment to liquify thickened oil secretions in the meibomian glands and restore normal function. We also use IPL to reduce abnormal blood vessels around the eyes that promote inflammation on the ocular surface.
Dry Eye FAQ
What are the risk factors for dry eye disease?
Factors that may increase the risk of getting dry eye disease include the following:
- Being over the age of 50
- Being a woman – particularly a woman experiencing hormonal changes due to pregnancy, menopause or the use of oral contraceptives
- Contact lens wear
- Use of medications that dry out the eyes – including antihistamines, decongestants, antidepressants
- History of certain systemic diseases – including diabetes, thyroid disease, autoimmune disease
- Prolonged use of computers and other digital devices
- Living in a dry, arid climate
How can I have dry eye disease if my eyes constantly water?
Oddly enough, excessive tearing and watery eyes can suggest dry eye. Excessive tears are the body’s way of compensating for extremely dry eyes. But because these tears do not contain the right balance of water, mucus and oil, they cannot properly lubricate the eyes.
Is it OK to use eye drops for dry eye every day?
You should use eye drops for dry eye exactly as directed by your doctor. Eye drops are not meant as a long-term cure for dry eye disease. They are usually a good solution to alleviate symptoms while your doctor determines the underlying reason for your condition.
Can I go blind from dry eye?
If chronic dry eye disease is left untreated, it can eventually damage the surface of your eye. Your cornea could develop abrasions, inflammation, ulcers or other complications that lead to further discomfort and even vision impairment.
Are there natural ways to minimize dry eye symptoms?
Our eye doctors may recommend you make the following behavioral and lifestyle changes:
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
- Eat a balanced diet that includes foods containing omega-3 fatty acids (tuna, salmon, nuts, flaxseed).
- Take frequent breaks while using computers and other digital devices.
- Use a humidifier inside.
- Wear protective eyewear on windy days or when spending time in dry or dusty environments.
- Apply a warm, damp washcloth to your eyelids.
- Do not smoke.
- Switch from wearing contacts to wearing glasses.
- Avoid any air blowing directly into your eyes (including fans and car heaters and air conditioners).
What is the best treatment for dry eyes?
The best treatment for dry eye depends on the root cause of your individual case.
If your eyes make tears but they evaporate too quickly, Blephasteam or intense pulsed light (IPL) therapy may help. The Rexon eye device applies low-energy, high-frequency electrotherapy to clear obstructed meibomian glands contributing to evaporative dry eye. The device works quickly and painlessly, and treatment can be performed in our office.
If your eyes simply do not produce enough tears, medicated eye drops or punctal plugs may improve your condition.
We may also recommend autologous serum tears for the treatment of dry eyes as well as to help heal some corneal wounds or injuries.
Can dry eye disease be cured?
No. Although the symptoms can be well-managed by the dry eye specialists at our practice, dry eye disease is considered a chronic medical condition.
Find Relief From Dry Eyes
For more information about dry eye disease, please contact The Eye Health Centre today. We have four offices conveniently located in Brisbane, Booval, Aspley and Wynnum.