If your eyes are itchy or tired, or you’re experiencing light sensitivity or blurry vision, don’t just chalk it up to allergies or a bad experience with contacts—you might have Dry Eye. 30% of all people have dry eye, and the symptoms can cause serious discomfort and irritation. Sometimes, dry eye can feel like a mild nuisance, but in other cases, it can cause serious damage to the eye. While there is no proven cure for Dry Eye, it’s important to get it treated before the effects worsen and permanently harm the eye.
Typically when you blink, your eyelid’s oil glands squeeze a tiny amount of oil onto the margins of your eyelid. The act of blinking spreads the oil to cover the water layer of your eye and protect it from evaporating. However, when your glands become blocked, you can’t produce the oil that protects this water layer, which leaves your eye exposed and causes inflammation. This process is called meibomian gland dysfunction(MGD), and 86% of the time it’s the cause of Dry Eye. Checking for MGD should be a regular part of your eye exam.
For many people, dry eye causes a scratchy sensation and may make it feel like they have something in their eye. Other symptoms can include burning or stinging, or excessive tearing followed by dryness, pain, and redness. Some dry eyes may feel heavy, or experience blurred vision. For other symptoms of dry eye, visit the Brill Eye Center website, brilleye.com.
So, How Do People Get Dry Eye?
Many medications like antidepressants, birth control pills, decongestants or antihistamines can increase the likelihood of Dry Eye. Getting older can also play a factor, as many people with Dry Eye are above the age of 50. Women are commonly thought to have an increased likelihood of dry eye due to hormonal changes, but increasingly men are found to have the clinical presentation of meibomian gland dysfunction—MGD, too. But wait! Dry Eye and MGD affect young people, too. Our constant use of digital displays and the lack of complete blinks spurs on the loss of the oil glands in the eyelids due to limited oil expression. Of course, windy and dry environments, as well as environmental allergies, are contributing factors to dry eye. If you are experiencing the symptoms of Dry Eye, you should contact us immediately in order to receive appropriate treatment.
You might be thinking, “what if it’s just my allergies?” While it’s possible that allergies can cause itching and irritation, they could be indicating a more serious problem like Dry Eye, especially in the summer or winter.
Until you are able to consult Brill Eye Center, over the counter eye drops can provide temporary relief by adding fluid to your eye. Beware of just treating the symptoms and not getting to the root cause of the problem. Other temporary treatments include gland expression, punctal plugs, hot compresses, eyelid scrubs, and Omega-3 fish oils. However, it is very important to make an accurate diagnosis of the cause of your Dry Eye. Simply put, an accurate diagnosis will direct an effective treatment plan to solve the root cause of the problem.
When someone has dry eyes, it is easy to just start using over-the-counter eye drops for relief. The problem is that OTC remedies often only help disguise the real problem. Getting to the root cause of the dry eye is much better. Example: If someone has a bad toothache, it is better to discover that a filling has fallen out instead of just going on pain medicine. Introducing the spa-like treatment called Lipiflow: An electronic device cleared by the FDA for definitive treatment of MGD. It utilizes Vector Thermal Pulsation technology and an algorithm of precise 108.5 degrees Fahrenheit heat is applied to inner eyelids. Simultaneously, a gentle external eyelid massage removes blockages from the meibomian glands. While dry eye could have persisted for years, it only takes a 12-minute comfortable Lipiflow treatment to vacate the blocked oil in the glands to start the dry eye recovery protocol. Solving the root cause of dry eye is so much better than just using expensive non-prescription and prescription eye drops that can cost over $500 per month and not work effectively to boot.
Don’t wait until you have symptoms to start preventing Dry Eye. There are a few hygiene practices that you can use to clean your eye of debris and excess oils that clog the glands in your eye. This can include home-applied eyelid scrubs or even professional but gentle eyelid cleaning performed by the eye doctor called BlephEx. A proper evaluation includes blink analysis, tear lipid layer thickness measurement, tear osmolarity assessment, tear stability analysis with fluorescein and lissamine green dyes, and infrared photography of the Meibomian glands (called meibography).
AT BRILL EYE CENTER, THERE ARE 5 STEPS TO THE DRY EYE PROCESS:
- Screening: Here, you’ll fill out our test to determine if you have Dry Eye, and we’ll collect a medical history to determine if your medications are having an effect on your eyes.
- Diagnosis: We’ll perform tests to look at your blink pattern, potential eyelid inflammation, tear production, and other things that will show us the full scope of your Dry Eye problem.
- Treatment: This step will change depending on the findings from Step 1 and Step 2. Treatment could be an eye drop regimen, the Lipiflow treatment, ILux treatment, BlephEx, the heated Eye Pad, Intense Pulsed Light (IPL), bandage contact lenses, amniotic membrane placement, autologous serum drops, or other modalities that will help treat your situation specifically.
- Healing: Brill will give you tips for healing MGD and Dry Eye like blink instructions, Omega-3 supplement suggestions, and ongoing care and monitoring.
- Maintenance: Finally, patients should schedule follow up visits to determine comfort level and check their eyes for healing progress or further problems.
Instead of masking the problems with solutions that only relieve your symptoms temporarily, Brill Eye Center has a passion for dry eye resolution. We offer you solutions that include the latest technology in order to treat the root problem of Dry Eye.
What Can You Do to Decrease Your Chances of Getting Dry Eye?
- Wear sunglasses or glasses to slow tear evaporation
- Get an indoor air cleaner for your house
- Replace your heating & cooling systems
- Use a humidifier to add moisture to your home
- Avoid dry conditions
- Allow your eyes to rest and take breaks during long periods of strain
- Take screen breaks from your computer, TV, and phone
While Dry Eye is chronic, 12 minutes of treatment can provide 1-3 years of relief, which is why it’s important to seek treatment right away. Just like brushing or flossing your teeth, Dry Eye must be managed in between visits to help avoid the reoccurrence of symptoms. If you’re taking the appropriate steps, dry eye and MGD can be easy to manage.
The symptoms of dry eye are sneaky because people often believe their irritation is caused by something else. So, they put off getting treatment and instead attribute their discomfort to eye strain, allergies or contacts. Left untreated, dry eye can worsen over time because it’s a chronic and progressive condition—like arthritis. If not treated, your glands could stop working, leading to pain, ulcers or scars on your cornea. In some cases, an untreated Dry Eye can cause a loss of vision. If you think you may have Dry Eye, take our online test here, and make an appointment at our office.
For more information and frequently asked questions about Dry Eye, or to watch our informational videos on symptoms and treatment, visit the Brill Eye Center website, brilleye.com