Dry eye is a condition in which a person doesn’t have enough tears to lubricate and nourish the front surface of the eye. Tears are necessary for maintaining the comfort and health of the ocular surface and for providing clear vision. Chronic dry eye is a common problem, particularly in older adults, and typically affects women more than men.
Tear production tends to decrease with age due to changes in the glands in the eyelids that are responsible for producing tears. Hormonal changes, medications, and certain medical conditions can also contribute to a decrease in tear production. Environmental conditions such as excessive computer use, dry air, and wind can cause increased evaporative rates of tears, resulting in decreased tear volume.
Our tears are made up of three layers; oil, water, and mucin. These three layers must remain in proper balance for the tear film to remain stable and coat the surface of the eye. Some conditions, particularly ones that affect the meibomian glands (oil producing glands of the eyelids) like ocular rosacea, blepharitis, and demodex, will disrupt the biochemical balance of the tear film resulting in dry eye.
In order to properly treat dry eye, we must first determine which type of dry eye each patient is experiencing. At Kirkwood Eye Center, we have the capability to evaluate the quality and quantity of one’s tear film which allows us to determine the best treatment plan for each individual case.
Mild cases of dry eyes can often be managed using artificial tears. We recommend Oasis Tears or Retaine Tears and have them available for purchase in the office of our patients’ convenience. Both are preservative-free and specially formulated to provide longer-lasting comfort than over-the-counter drops available in stores. People with dry eyes that don’t respond to artificial tears alone will need to take additional steps to treat their dry eyes.
We can keep natural tears on the surface of the eyes longer by blocking the puncta (tear duct) through which the tears normally drain. A small silicone plug is inserted into the opening of the puncta and acts like a drain stopper in a sink. The goal is to keep the available tears in the eye longer and reduce the need for adding tears with drops.
Restasis is the only prescription drop that has been shown to increase one’s own production of tears. We can work with you to determine if you are a candidate for treatment with Restasis. Taking an Omega-3 fatty acid nutritional supplement may also help.
Please see further information about blepharitis and meibomian glad dysfunction.
In severe cases of dry eye in which the cornea is becoming damaged or is not able to heal with the aforementioned therapies, we can use bandage lenses with amniotic membrane. These biologic tissues have natural therapeutic properties that help promote healing and new healthy cell growth in damaged tissue.