Dry Eye Exams and Treatment in Burnsville, MN
Dry Eye is a very common condition that varies in severity from minor and occasional discomfort and dryness all the way through a condition that is chronic and debilitating. Often referred to as Dry Eye Syndrome (DES), this condition can be caused by a wide range of environmental, lifestyle, and genetic factors, as well as various eye conditions. The result of any of these factors, or a combination of them, is that the eyes fail to produce enough lubrication. Usually, the problem is connected with a problem in the production of lipids (fatty oils) produced by the meibomian glands in the eyelids. These lipids are crucial to maintaining proper lubrication. The meibomian glands, which produce these lipids, can become blocked or atrophied, and this is often exacerbated by extensive use of digital devices and poor blinking habits.
Another possibility is that the tear-film is breaking up too fast, and evaporates before effective lubrication can occur. Or, there simply isn’t enough tear to go around.
Symptoms of Dry Eye Disease
While the severity and causes vary widely, dry eye syndrome typically includes some of the following symptoms:
- Sore, itchy, and dry eyes
- A sensation of burning or scratching
- Feeling like there is something in your eye
- Gritty, sandy, or bleary eyes
- Blurry vision
- Pasty, gunky feeling in the eyes
The main function of tears is to maintain the health of the cornea of your eye by washing away foreign matter and ensuring that the surface of your eye remains moist, smooth and clear. Tears also rinse away dust particles from your eyes and contain enzymes that protect your eyes from bacteria that can cause infections. Dry eyes is a condition that develops when the amount of tears produced is not sufficient to maintain the moisture balance in your eye. This can result in that scratchy sensation, a continuous feeling of dryness, stinging and a sensation of a foreign body in your eye. Ironically in an effort to fight off the condition, dry eyes can cause you to produce excessive tears, which is why some people experience watery eyes.
Causes of Dry Eye Disease
Age and Medications
As mentioned above, there are a number of factors that can contribute to dry eye syndrome. As we age, our eyes become more prone to dryness. This is especially true of menopausal women, who are 50% more likely to develop dry eye syndrom than the general population. There are also a number of medications which can be a contributing cause of dry eye syndrome including:
- Hormonal contraceptives
- SSRI anti-depressants
Additionally, various medical conditions contribute to dry eye syndrome, or put you at greater risk of developing symptoms. This can include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Thryoid conditions
Lastly, various eye surgeries such as LASIK can cause complications resulting in dry eye syndrome.
Environment and Lifestyle
Continued exposure to dry and dusty conditions is also a factor contributing to dry eyes. Likewise, central heating and air conditioning can contribute to eye dryness. It’s hugely important to consciously blink more often if you are frequently looking at a digital device screen, as most of us are. Looking at these devices makes us subconsciously blink less, which can cause the meibomian glands to atrophy.
Extensive use of contact lenses can also be a significant factor.
Diagnosis of Dry Eye Disease
Our eye doctors in Burnsville, MN will look for symptoms of dry eyes during your comprehensive exam and ask you if you are experiencing symptoms. There are also various tests that our optometrists can conduct that measure the evaporation and breakup time of your tears. A low breakup time usually indicates a lack of the lipids essential for proper lubrication. A large difference between the eyes is also a telltale indication of a problem.
Our dry eye specialists can also test the volume and osmolarity of your tears, which can also indicate the presence and cause of your dry eyes.
Treatment for Dry Eyes in Burnsville
Dry eye syndrome is an ongoing condition that treatments may be unable to cure. But the symptoms of dry eye – including dryness, scratchiness and burning – can usually be successfully managed.
Our optometrists may recommend artificial tears, which are lubricating eye drops that may alleviate the dry, scratchy feeling and foreign body sensation of dry eye. Prescription eye drops for dry eye go one step further: they help increase your tear production. In some cases, your doctor may also prescribe a steroid for more immediate short-term relief.
Omega-3 fatty acids can also be very useful in preventing and treating dry eyes.
Another option for dry eye treatment involves a tiny insert filled with a lubricating ingredient. The insert is placed just inside the lower eyelid, where it continuously releases lubrication throughout the day.
If you wear contact lenses, be aware that many artificial tears cannot be used during contact lens wear. You may need to remove your lenses before using the drops. Wait 15 minutes or longer (check the label) before reinserting them. For mild dry eye, contact lens rewetting drops may be sufficient to make your eyes feel better, but the effect is usually only temporary. Switching to another lens brand could also help.
Check the label, but better yet, check with your us before buying any over-the-counter eye drops. Your Burnsville dry eye specialist will know which formulas are effective and long-lasting and which are not, as well as which eye drops will work with your contact lenses.
To reduce the effects of sun, wind and dust on dry eyes, wear sunglasses when outdoors. Wraparound styles offer the best protection.
Indoors, an air cleaner can filter out dust and other particles from the air, while a humidifier adds moisture to air that’s too dry because of air conditioning or heating.
For more significant cases of dry eye, your eye doctor may recommend punctal plugs. These tiny devices are inserted in ducts in your lids to slow the drainage of tears away from your eyes, thereby keeping your eyes moister.
If your dry eye is caused by meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD), our Burnsville eye clinic may recommend warm compresses and suggest an in-office procedure to clear the blocked glands and restore normal function.
Our eye doctors often recommend special nutritional supplements containing certain essential fatty acids to decrease dry eye symptoms. Drinking more water may also offer some relief.
If medications are the cause of dry eyes, discontinuing the drug generally resolves the problem. But in this case, the benefits of the drug must be weighed against the side effect of dry eyes. Sometimes switching to a different type of medication alleviates the dry eye symptoms while keeping the needed treatment. In any case, never switch or discontinue your medications without consulting with your doctor first.
Treating any underlying eyelid disease, such as blepharitis, helps as well. This may call for antibiotic or steroid drops, plus frequent eyelid scrubs with an antibacterial shampoo.
If you are considering LASIK, be aware that dry eyes may disqualify you for the surgery, at least until your dry eye condition is successfully treated. Dry eyes increase your risk for poor healing after LASIK, so most surgeons will want to treat the dry eyes first, to ensure a good LASIK outcome. This goes for other types of vision correction surgery, as well.