Dry Eye Disease Overview
Dry eye is one of the most under-diagnosed ocular diseases, and it is one of the most common reasons why patients go see their eye care professional.
Dry eye occurs when eyes do not produce the right quantity or quality of tears. Women are more frequently affected than men, and it is often caused by hormonal changes due to aging and menopause or medical conditions.
Dry eye is among the least understood eye conditions that affect large numbers of people. Many people mistake the dry eye symptoms for allergies, climatic conditions or just "eyestrain". While all of these may aggravate dry eye symptoms, they are not the cause.
Your eyes need a constant layer of tears - called the "tear film"- to maintain and protect the ocular surface. In dry eye, underlying changes to the health of the tear-producing glands can result in a change in the quantity and quality of the tears you make. This results in a tear film that can no longer provide enough nourishment or protection to the surface of your eye. This can lead to damage of your eye's surface, which, in turn, can lead to the symptoms of dry eye.
Symptoms of Dry Eye
Signs and symptoms of dry eyes may include stinging, burning, scratchy sensation, sensitivity to light, tearing, tired eyes, and difficulty wearing contact lenses, as well as blurred vision, often worsening at the end of the day or after visually focusing for a prolonged period on a nearby task.
Causes of Dry Eye
- Environmental Causes
Hot, dry and/or windy climates, high altitudes, excessive sun exposure, central heating, air conditioning, hair dryers, cigarette smoke, air pollution, air travel
- Medications: (prescription or over the counter)
Allergy medications, especially antihistamines, antidepressants,(e.g. Amitriptyline, Diazepam), some blood pressure medications, Parkinson's medications, birth control pills, diuretics, beta blockers, sleeping pills, many pain medications, certain medications which regulate heart rhythm irregularities, decongestants
- Contact Lens Wear
Two million individuals abandon soft contact lens wear altogether each year with nearly 50% of these contact lens "dropouts" attributing dryness or discomfort as the primary reason.
Parkinson's disease, Sjögren's syndrome (an auto-immune disease), Rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus, Lacrimal gland deficiency, Diabetes, Sarcoidosis, Stevens-Johnson syndrome, Rosacea
- Refractive eye surgery
Dry eye is the most common complaint or adverse event following LASIK.
- Hormonal deficiencies or changes
Thyroid conditions, hormonal changes during menopause, decreased production of androgen, estrogen supplementation (There are reports both of this improving dry eye conditions and worsening them.)
- Low blink rate
Blinking is critical in spreading tears over the surface of the eye and stimulating tear production. A chronic low blink rate is associated with dry eye symptoms. Computer use, reading, and watching TV are the three activities most commonly associated with a low blink rate.
Possible Long Term Effects of Dry Eye
When the production of natural, healthy tears is reduced, Dry Eye can cause serious irritation to the front of the eye, particularly the cornea. A natural, healthy tear film not only lubricates the surface of the eye, but also works to fight infection, providing important nourishment that is vital for clear vision. Reduced tear production over a long period of time increases the risk of permanent damage and scarring to the front of the eye.
TearLab aids in accurate and early detection of Dry Eye Disease. Doctors can quantitatively monitor disease severity and can intervene early in the disease process. This will help Doctors custom prescribe therapies that work for each individual. TearLab also allows doctors to measure the success of prescribed treatments. If you suffer from dry eye, talk to your eye care professional about treatment options.
What's My Number?
Only a doctor can determine if you have Dry Eye disease. Your doctor will ask you to describe your dry eye symptoms and the impact that they have on your daily life. The doctor may perform one or more test to assess your condition. The TearLab® Osmolarity Test gives doctors information about the salt content of your tears, which is an indicator of Dry Eye Disease.
Tear osmolarity has been shown to have the best predictive value of any single test for diagnosing Dry Eye disease. TearLab's sophisticated lab on a chip technology tests a tiny tear sample to measure Osmolarity, or the salt content in the tears. The Doctor will test both eyes, and will take the highest number of the two tests, to generate Your Osmolarity Number. Your Osmolarity Number gives doctors a meaningful measure of the health and stability of the protective tear film that covers the surface of your eyes. The number generated correlates with the severity of the disease. What's Your Number?
Eye Clinic of Austin is a Tear Lab Accredited Dry Eye Center and utilizes the most advanced technology on the market to diagnose and treat dry eyes. Call 512 427-1100 to schedule your dry eye evaluation today.