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Dry Eye

A Common Affliction

One of the more common causes of eye irritation is dry eye syndrome. Symptoms are typically a sensation of regular eye irritation, burning, tearing, and sometimes-blurry vision.

Chart Showing a Healthy Eye Compared to One With Dry Eye

How it Happens

The tear film, which covers the eye surface, is a complex three-layered structure. Made up of mostly water, it also has an inner layer of mucus, which holds the tear film to the eye surface, and an outer layer of lipids (fats) that serves to slow evaporation of tears. This tear film lubricates the eye, smoothing away irregularities for better-quality vision; it washes germs and other irritating substances from the eye surface; and carries important oxygen to the surface of the eye.

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Dry eye syndrome is when the tear film has one or more disorders, which can be classified into two categories:

  • Decreased tear production
  • Excessive tear evaporation

Dry eye may also develop as a result of disease or blockage in the oil-producing glands within the eyelid.

Dry Eye Treatment 

The initial approach to treating dry eye syndrome is directed at treatment of the underlying cause. Your doctor will typically start with a special dosage of topical tear substitutes (drops, gels or ointments). Several brands include electrolytes (salts) that may help heal the damaging effects of dry or “concentrated” tears on the surface of the eye. Ointments may be very soothing but should only be used at bedtime, to minimize the blurring produced.

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Many dry eye cases are caused by blockage of the eyelid glands. Blinking releases an oil that protects tears and lubricates eyes. When these glands are blocked, production of the oil is hindered, causing tears to evaporate quicker and exposing the eye surface. This is known as meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD).

LipiFlow Machine

If gland structures are healthy, blockages can be removed and proper function restored with a treatment called LipiFlow. Once the glands are producing oil, a reduction in dry eye symptoms often occurs. The treatment, which is painless and takes less than 12 minutes, involves heating the inside of the eyelids while massaging to remove gland blockages.

When symptoms persist despite the use of tear substitutes, temporary or permanent closure of the tear ducts may be considered (punctal plugs or thermal punctal occlusion). This very valuable approach is similar to placing a plug in the drain to help a slow-running faucet fill a kitchen sink. Each eyelid has two “drains” or tear ducts near the bridge of the nose (one on the upper eyelid and one on the lower eyelid, both near the nasal side of the eyelid).

This is done as a minor office procedure and can produce dramatic relief of dry eye symptoms.

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Our dry eye syndrome specialists will devise a treatment plan specific to your needs.

Set up an appointment today with a dry eye specialist.

Dry Eye Doctor