Diagnosis & Management
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Dry Eye Assessment and Treatment in Ken Caryl, CO
Dry eye disease is a prevalent issue where the eyes either lack adequate tear production or produce poor-quality tears. At the Eyecare Center of Ken Caryl, our expert eye doctors excel in diagnosing and managing dry eye disease, ensuring positive patient outcomes.
How tears work
Tears play a vital role in maintaining the health and function of our eyes. They lubricate, nourish, and protect our eyes. The tear film is a complex, multi-layered structure that covers the surface of the eye. It consists of three primary layers, each with a specific function:
- Lipid (oil) layer: The lipid layer is the outermost layer and is produced by the meibomian glands located in the eyelids. This layer helps to prevent the evaporation of the watery layer beneath it, ensuring that the tear film remains stable and well-lubricated. It also contributes to the smooth optical surface of the tear film, which is crucial for clear vision.
- Aqueous (water) layer: The middle layer is the thickest of the three and is produced by the lacrimal glands located above the outer edges of the eyes. It provides hydration, lubrication, and nourishment to the cornea and the conjunctiva and helps protect the eye from infections and foreign particles.
- Mucin layer: The innermost layer is produced by goblet cells found within the conjunctiva and plays a crucial role in maintaining a stable tear film and ensuring that the eye remains well-lubricated.
The tear film’s three-layered structure ensures that the eye remains well-hydrated and maintains a smooth optical surface for clear vision.
What causes dry eye?
Numerous factors can contribute to dry eye disease. A personalized evaluation of the root causes is crucial for effective treatment.
- Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) occurs when meibomian glands in the eyelids become obstructed or blocked. These glands secrete an oily substance that lubricates the eye and prevents tear evaporation. Blocked glands can reduce or halt this secretion, causing tear film imbalance and dry eye symptoms. MGD is a primary cause of dry eye disease and is more common in individuals with a history of blepharitis or eyelid inflammation.
- Certain conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis, autoimmune diseases, and Sjogren’s syndrome, can cause dry eye disease.
- Some medications, such as antihistamines and antidepressants, can cause dry eyes as a side effect.
- Wind, sun, and air conditioning can also contribute to dry eyes.
- Extended screen time on computers or digital devices can lead to dry eye symptoms due to a decreased blink rate.
- Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelids that can cause redness, itching, burning, and grittiness. This condition can be caused by bacterial infections, overgrowth of normal eyelid bacteria, allergic reactions, or blocked oil glands, leading to dry eye disease.
- Ingredients in cosmetics like preservatives, fragrances, and certain dyes can irritate the eyes, causing dryness, redness, and itching. Eye makeup can cause irritation and dryness, especially if worn for extended periods. Cosmetics may also contribute to blepharitis by clogging oil glands, leading to bacterial overgrowth and inflammation.
- An infestation of tiny Demodex mites can cause blepharitis and dry eye disease. These mites are typically found on human skin, but large numbers on eyelashes can lead to eyelid inflammation and dry eye disease.
What are the symptoms of dry eye?
Dry eye symptoms can vary from mild to severe, including:
- Uncomfortable or painful eyes
- Burning or stinging sensations
- Eye redness
- Grittiness or a sandy feeling in the eyes
- Blurry vision
- Light sensitivity
- Excessive tearing (watery eyes) can occur due to a process called reflex tearing. When your eyes are dry, it causes irritation to the ocular surface. In response, your eyes produce more tears to try to compensate for the dryness and provide relief. However, these reflex tears are usually of poor quality and don’t effectively lubricate the eye’s surface.
Untreated dry eye disease can result in more severe issues like corneal ulcers, infections, and scarring.
Dry eye disease evaluation
Our eye doctors at Eyecare Center of Ken Caryl utilize state-of-the-art diagnostic tools to assess patients for dry eye disease, identifying both the condition and its root cause.
Dry eye disease treatment
There are several treatment options for dry eye, depending on the underlying cause and severity of the condition. Here are some common treatments for dry eye:
Over-the-counter artificial tears or lubricating eye drops can provide temporary relief for mild to moderate dry eye symptoms. They can help supplement natural tear production and improve the overall tear film quality.
Our office carries Oasis TEARS® PLUS lubricant eye drops in stock, a leading brand in dry eye relief. Oasis TEARS® PLUS are formulated to closely resemble the composition of natural tears, providing long-lasting relief from dry eye symptoms. These eye drops are preservative-free, making them gentle and safe to use for individuals with sensitive eyes.
Prescription eye drops
For more severe cases, doctors may prescribe eye drops that help increase tear production, such as Restasis, Cequa, or Xiidra. These drops work by reducing inflammation in the eye, which helps to promote tear production.
In cases where tear drainage is excessive, punctal plugs can be inserted into the tear ducts (puncta) to block drainage and help retain moisture on the eye’s surface. These plugs can be temporary or permanent, depending on the patient’s needs.
Scleral contact lenses
Scleral lenses are large-diameter, gas-permeable contact lenses that vault over the cornea and rest on the sclera (the white part of the eye). These lenses create a reservoir of fluid between the lens and the cornea, providing continuous hydration and relief from dry eye symptoms.
Adding moisture to the air using a humidifier can help alleviate dry eye symptoms, particularly in environments with low humidity. Adjusting the environment to reduce exposure to wind, dust, or air conditioning can help minimize dry eye symptoms. Wearing wraparound sunglasses or protective eyewear can also provide relief.
Treatment for meibomian gland dysfunction
For patients with meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) or blepharitis, gentle eyelid massages can help unblock the oil glands, improving tear film quality. Cleaning the eyelids daily with a mild cleanser can also help control inflammation and reduce symptoms. We also offer the following dry eye treatment options at our Littleton office:
Meibomian gland probing (MGP)
Meibomian gland probing (MGP) is a specialized procedure that targets one of the underlying causes of dry eye syndrome: meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD). MGP involves gently opening and clearing the blocked or obstructed meibomian glands, which are responsible for producing the oily component of tears. By improving the function of these glands, MGP helps restore the natural lubrication of your eyes, alleviating dry eye symptoms and enhancing overall ocular health.
Nordic Naturals supplements
At the Eyecare Center of Ken Caryl, we carry Nordic Naturals eye health supplements in stock, renowned for their high-quality formulations. These supplements are specifically designed to promote overall eye health and combat dryness by providing essential nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamins. Including these supplements as part of your daily routine can contribute to the overall improvement of your dry eye symptoms.
Warm compresses are a simple yet effective way to find relief from dry eye symptoms. They work by applying gentle heat to the eyelids, helping to soften and release any hardened oil in the meibomian glands. We carry warm compresses in stock at Eyecare Center of Ken Caryl, making it easy for you to access this soothing treatment at your convenience.
It’s essential to consult with an eye care professional to determine the most suitable treatment options based on the specific causes and severity of dry eye disease. Treatment plans may involve a combination of therapies for optimal results. If you are experiencing symptoms of dry eye disease, schedule an appointment at the Eyecare Center of Ken Caryl for a comprehensive eye exam. We look forward to serving you!