Dry eye is one of the most common reasons patients will come in for an eye exam. More than an annoying allergy symptom or result from prolonged contact wearing, dry eyes can range from a slight nuisance to a severe symptom.
While most people think of dry eye being a mild, temporary inconvenience, there are many that suffer from chronic or severe versions of a “dry eye disease,” causing inflammation, abrasion, ulcers, or even vision loss.
Regular check-ups and monitoring are important if a chronic condition is identified. 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 keep the surface smooth, clear, and lubricated with fatty oils, watery fluids, and mucus. You normally know this combination of lubricants as “tears.”
Dry eyes can interfere with basic requirements 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 solution for treatment. 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 changes in climate or the seasons. These swings of the air’s humidity, temperatures, or speed can affect the body’s ability to replace evaporated tears.
If the problem lasts more than a change in the weather, our licensed optometrists will perform a few diagnostic tests. Given the complexity of the eye, there are numerous parts covered in our tests for dry eye. Usually the dry eye exams reveal any of the 4 general problems:
- Problem with producing quality tears
- Problem with producing enough tears
- Problem with speed of tear production
- Problem with quick tear evaporation
Whether it’s from hormone changes, autoimmune disease, inflamed eyelid glands, allergic eye disease, our dry eye examination can get to the root of the problem for diagnosing the appropriate treatment for chronic dry eye.
What Our Dry Eye Exam is Looking For
Since dry eyes can result from a variety of causes, our comprehensive examination will search for or measure the following:
- Questionnaire on family history
- Abnormalities in the conjunctiva
- Unstable tear osmolarity on cornea
- Low-volume tear production
- Deficient meibomian glands in your eyelids
- Presence of MMP-9 enzymes on ocular surface
Our various imaging tests, diagnostic exams, or evaluations are usually simple and noninvasive. Identifying the root physiological cause of your dry eye is important to us. In researching a patient’s medical history, we also like identifying any prior and failed treatments is essential to 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 a minimum or long-term eye damage at the worst.
Since 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.
Ways We Can Fix Your Dry Eyes
Early detection means we can provide preventative 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/meibomian gland dysfunction require antibiotics and anti-inflammatory agents while ocular surface disorders require topical steroids followed by long-term palliative therapies.