Dry eye is one of the most common reasons patients come in for an eye exam. More than an annoying allergy symptom or result of prolonged contact lens wear, dry eyes can range from a slight nuisance to a severe symptom.
Most people may think of dry eye as a mild, temporary inconvenience. However, many patients suffer from a chronic or severe version of a “dry eye disease” that causes inflammation, abrasion, ulcers or even vision loss.
Attending regular checkups and undergoing monitoring are important if doctors identify a chronic condition. Early interventions can keep chronic dry eye from creating further complications.
Dry Eye Affects How Your Eye Functions
Your eyes normally have a film covering them that keeps the surface smooth, clear and lubricated with fatty oils, watery fluids and mucus. You commonly know this combination of lubricants as “tears.”
Dry eyes can interfere with basic factors that the eye needs to function, like clarity, hydration and effective drainage.
Treating Chronic Dry Eye
With mild or intermittent symptoms, over-the-counter artificial tears are a sufficient treatment solution. More severe symptoms may require prescription medications to reduce grittiness, redness or blurry vision.
Environmental conditions are the most common cause of dry eye. Usually, these are related to climate or seasonal changes. These shifts in the air’s humidity, temperature or speed can affect the body’s ability to replace evaporated tears.
If the problem lasts more than a change in the weather, then our licensed optometrists will perform a few diagnostic tests. Given the eye’s complexity, we cover numerous parts in our dry eye tests. Usually, the dry eye tests reveal one or more of these four general problems:
- Problem with producing quality tears
- Problem with producing enough tears
- Problem with speed of tear production
- Problem with quick tear evaporation
Whether the problem’s from hormonal changes, autoimmune disease, inflamed eyelid glands or allergic eye disease, our dry eye examination can get to the root of the problem. Then, we can diagnose the appropriate treatment for chronic dry eye.
What Our Dry Eye Exam Looks For
Because dry eyes can result from a variety of causes, our comprehensive examination searches for or measures the following:
- Family history questionnaire
- Abnormalities in the conjunctiva
- Unstable tear osmolarity on the cornea
- Low-volume tear production
- Deficient meibomian glands in the eyelids
- Presence of MMP-9 enzymes on the ocular surface
Our various imaging tests, diagnostic exams and evaluations are usually simple and noninvasive. Identifying the root physiological cause of your dry eye is important to us.
In researching your medical history, we also like to identify any prior and/or failed treatments. That identification is essential so that we avoid repeating inadequate options.
Why Is a Dry Eye Disease Exam So Important?
The average human blinks between 14,000 and 20,000 times per day. If a critical component of that process is missing, you’ll experience discomfort at minimum or long-term eye damage at worst.
Because testing for dry eye is mostly noninvasive, our thorough exam is useful in revealing other potential issues with your ocular surface, conjunctiva or meibomian glands.
How We Can Fix Your Dry Eyes
Early detection means we can provide preventive treatment options before your chronic dry eyes get any worse.
Over-the-counter or prescription-strength eye drops can solve the milder, more temporary dry eye issues. Issues like blepharitis or meibomian gland dysfunction require antibiotics and anti-inflammatory agents. Meanwhile, ocular surface disorders require topical steroids followed by long-term palliative therapies.