Dry eye disease is a multifactorial disease that affects an estimated 25 million people in the United States alone. In fact, dry eye disease is one of the most common reasons that people visit their eye care professional.
The increasing prevalence of dry eye disease is precisely why Virginia Eye Consultants became certified by TearLab as an Accredited Dry Eye Center. As an Accredited Dry Eye Center, the staff at Virginia Eye Consultants is dedicated to providing the highest quality of dry eye care by using advanced ophthalmic diagnostic techniques and treatments.
Although a common occurrence, it is important to treat Dry Eye Syndrome as soon as possible and with regular doctor visits to ensure complications or damage to the eye or vision do not occur.
If you believe you have Dry Eye Syndrome, please schedule an appointment with the dry eye doctors at Virginia Eye Consultants in Hampton Roads. Treatment options vary depending on symptoms and severity, so schedule an appointment today for an eye exam and assessment of your options.
What is Dry Eye?
Dry Eye Syndrome results when the eyes are not producing an adequate amount of tears to keep them lubricated. This common condition can result in an itching, burning, inflamed, and/or stinging sensation in the eyes. It can also cause light sensitivity and difficulty wearing contact lenses.
It may sound strange, but increased tearing may also be a symptom of Dry Eye Syndrome in some cases. The eyes’ lacrimal glands can begin to produce excess tears to respond to the irritation that occurs when tear secretion is below normal – so, when the eye is dry, an overflow of tears can result, which disguises the basic dryness that initially caused the excessive tearing.
Dry Eye Syndrome can be a very frustrating and debilitating condition. If left untreated, it can lead to severe ocular disease. Some individuals can mistake the symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome for allergies or infections, which makes it very important to have an eye exam as quickly as possible once the problems begin.
Dry Eye Treatment
Virginia Eye Consultants is happy to offer the LipiFlow® Thermal Pulsation System, which reduces the need for artificial tears and other prescription dry eye treatments by attending to the cause of evaporative dry eye symptoms, the meibomian glands themselves.
Alternatively, artificial tears are used as eye drops to lubricate the eyes and replace the missing moisture. They may be used as often as necessary, only once or twice a day, or as often as several times per hour. Solid inserts that gradually release lubricants during the day are also beneficial to some patients.
Another approach to keeping the eye moist is conserving your naturally produced tears. Tears leave the eye through tear ducts in both eyelids and go down into the nose. Your dry eye doctor at Virginia Eye Consultants may recommend closing these channels to create a blockage which will keep the eyes moist for longer periods of time.
Xiidra™ Prescription Eye Drops
Xiidra™ (lifitegrast ophthalmic solution) 5% is the first prescription eye drop that has been approved by the FDA to treat the signs and symptoms of dry eye. Our doctors were involved in the publications and clinical trials that contributed to the ultimate approval of Xiidra™, and we look forward to helping more patients with the innovative solution. By using the drops twice per day, individuals can significantly reduce the chronic irritation and discomfort that comes with dry eye disease.
Blepharitis Lid Treatment
Many patients with dry eye have blepharitis. This is a chronic, inflammatory disease of the eyelids caused by an overgrowth of normal bacteria along the base of the eyelashes. This overgrowth produces a film that traps debris along the eyelashes and harbors bacterial exotoxins along the eyelids, causing inflammation that affects the tear glands, slowing down tear production. With fewer tears, more bacteria accumulate, leading to chronic irritation and dry eye. This condition, left untreated, can lead to significant damage to the eyelid and tear glands.
MiBoFlo Thermoflo® is a therapeutic device for the treatment of dry eye that uses a thermoelectric heat mechanism to loosen obstructed secretions and improve meibomian gland function to help eliminate the evaporative component of dry eye. The process works with gentle, ocular massage in a comfortable, even relaxing, treatment to create enhanced tear film.
This treatment has been shown to help clear meibomian glands of obstruction and increase lipid health and function. It is a comfortable, effective, convenient and affordable treatment.
Dry Eye Causes
A variety of factors can contribute to the development of Dry Eye Syndrome, including the natural aging process, a windy or dusty environment, smoke and other pollutants, and excessive use of contacts. Arthritis, certain medications, and diseases such as Sjogren’s syndrome can also be associated with dry eyes. The condition can affect both men and women of any age.
Meibomian gland dysfunction is often attributed as the cause of dry eye disease. These glands are responsible for producing the outer layer of lipids (oil) on the tear film. The lipid layer is what can stop the tears from evaporating too soon. If the meibomian glands are not functioning properly, they can become inflamed and infiltrated with bacteria. These effects can ultimately lead to redness, pain and discomfort in the eyes, swollen eyelids, and vision blurriness.
In some cases, certain medications can reduce the secretion of tears and lead to dry eyes. Since the medication can be necessary for the treatment of another condition, dry eyes may need to be tolerated during this period; however, treatment with “artificial tears” may be an option in those cases.
How is Dry Eye diagnosed?
Often, our doctors are able to diagnose dry eyes by simply examining the eyes. Sometimes tests to measure tear production are necessary. One of the latest devices in dry eye technology is the TearLab Osmolarity System. By using the TearLab, the dry eye doctors at Virginia Eye Consultants can quickly and painlessly measure a small sample of your tears to determine how dry they truly are.
Using just a nanoliter of tear fluid, the osmolarity data that the TearLab gathers allows patients to understand their “level” of disease. Your unique tear number will also allow your doctor to decipher the best means of treatment for you.