Because Dry Eye conditions afflict nearly 30 million Americans, Lake Eye’s Doctor of Optometry, Dr. Adria Anguita, addresses frequently asked questions about this highly treatable disorder.
What is Dry Eye?
Dr. Anguita: Dry Eye describes a group of conditions that cause an array of chronic or intermittent symptoms, including dryness, redness, irritation, grittiness, fatigue, tearing or discharge, crusting around the eyes, especially upon waking, and blurred vision. A patient may have one, a few or all of these symptoms.
Is Dry Eye Serious?
Dr. Anguita: Chronic Dry Eye isn’t dangerous in and of itself, but in addition to creating discomfort, it can leave a person more vulnerable to eye infections and certain diseases, which can sometimes be serious. That’s why it’s important to find treatment that allows eyes to remain moist, comfortable and protected. It’s also beneficial from a cosmetic standpoint because red, irritated, tired eyes impact one’s appearance.
What Causes Dry Eye?
Dr. Anguita: Dry Eye conditions have different causes, including certain medications, vitamin A deficiency and diseases like diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma and Sjogren’s syndrome. However, about 85% of Dry Eye cases are caused by a condition known as Meibomian Gland Dysfunction, or MGD, which refers to blockage of the tiny glands along the eyelid that secrete an oily layer onto the eyeball, keeping your natural tears from evaporating. This is especially common in people as they get older. Once these glands are blocked and the oily layer disappears, tears dry up rapidly, creating dryness and irritation. Oftentimes eyes then produce more tears to compensate, which is why so many people with dry eye also have excess tearing.
An important first step is having a Dry Eye evaluation so that the specific cause can be determined and treated appropriately.
What Treatments Are Available?
Dr. Anguita: Mild cases can usually be treated with over-the-counter eye drops. That is most people’s go-to when they first notice their eyes are dry and irritated, but if you find yourself using them multiple times a day, it’s important to steer clear of drops with preservatives in them, which, ironically, can irritate eyes even more. And if OTC drops aren’t providing sufficient relief, prescription eye drops are available that actually help your eyes produce more of their own tears. We also recommend specific nutritional supplements and special eye cleansers to provide relief.
However, the most common cause of Dry Eye, MGD, won’t be substantially relieved by eye drops alone. That’s why Lake Eye provides advanced MGD diagnostic testing, as well as a treatment system called LipiFlow, which is an FDA-cleared external device designed to gently warm and massage the inner eyelids and unclog the meibomian glands so they can secrete oil again and trap tears against the eyeball. I love that this treatment requires no medication or surgery – it’s a purely holistic approach to helping your eyes work properly again.
For most patients, a single LipiFlow treatment is all that’s needed to slow or arrest the progression of MGD and alleviate symptoms for as long as two years. Some patients report improvement only days after treatment, but for some full effect may take several weeks. We prescribe anti-inflammatory eye drops to be used for a couple of weeks following treatment for ultimate protection, but afterward very little follow-up is required for lasting, all-natural relief.
What’s the First Step Toward Relief from Dry Eye?
Dr. Anguita: That’s easy – just call your local Lake Eye and make an appointment for a Dry Eye evaluation. Once we determine the problem, we can quickly get you on your way to experiencing greater comfort and safety as well as a more refreshed appearance. Treatment is so much more comfortable than Dry Eye symptoms, so there’s absolutely no reason to suffer from this complex and all-too-common disorder another day.
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