Dry eyes can cause a range of uncomfortable symptoms, from redness and itchiness to blurred vision. Frequent dry eyes can signal dry eye syndrome, a complex disease that affects more than 16 million people in the United States.1 While dry eyes are common, it is important to see an experienced ophthalmologist for treatment that will relieve symptoms and prevent dry eye complications.
The eye doctors at Virginia Eye Consultants are committed to helping patients in the Hampton Roads area find relief from dry eye symptoms. We are certified by TearLab as an Accredited Dry Eye Center and our dry eye specialists utilize advanced techniques to diagnose and treat patients with dry eye disease.
What is Dry Eye Syndrome?
When the human eye is functioning properly, it keeps the surface of the eye well lubricated. Everyone may experience occasional dry eyes as the result of an arid climate, having a fan near your face, or seasonal allergies. However, if your eyes are not producing enough lubricating tears, then you may have frequent dry eye symptoms which are classified as dry eye syndrome or dry eye disease. Chronic dry eyes are uncomfortable and can interfere with everyday tasks and overall quality of life. If dry eye syndrome is misdiagnosed or left untreated, it can lead to more serious eye diseases.
Dry Eye Symptoms
Dry eye syndrome can cause a variety of uncomfortable symptoms, including:
- Irritation and the feeling that there is something in your eye
- Burning or stinging
- Stringy mucus or discharge
- Sensitivity to light
- Watery eyes (this may seem counterintuitive, but your lacrimal glands can respond to dryness by overproducing tears)
If you are suffering with dry eye symptoms, our experienced dry eye doctors can help. We offer a variety of treatment options and we can develop a personalized treatment plan for you. Contact us to schedule an appointment in Norfolk, Suffolk, Hampton, or Virginia Beach.
Dry Eye Causes
While dry eyes can affect anyone of any age, there are factors that can contribute to the development of dry eye syndrome, including:
- the natural aging process
- a windy or dusty environment
- smoke and other pollutants
- excessive use of contact lenses
- Arthritis, certain medications, and diseases such as Sjogren’s syndrome can also be associated with dry eyes
Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD)
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.
How is Dry Eye diagnosed?
Often, our eye 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.
Another diagnostic tool that our dry eye specialists use to determine if a patient has dry eye disease is the LipiScan Dynamic Meibomian Imager. This innovative device is a meibomian gland imager that delivers high-definition images of meibomian gland structure. LipiScan allows your eye doctor to quickly and accurately assess the health of your meibomian glands.
Dry Eye Treatment
Virginia Eye Consultants is happy to offer a variety of dry eye treatments to help patients achieve their best possible outcomes. This includes advanced options like the LipiFlow® Thermal Pulsation System as well as the TrueTear™ Intranasal Tear Neurostimulator. The first line of treatment for many patients is over-the-counter eye drops or artificial tears to lubricate the eyes and replace the missing moisture. Drops may be used as often as necessary, but opt for preservative-free drops if you use them very often. Solid inserts that gradually release lubricants during the day are also beneficial to some patients.
Advanced treatment options for Dry Eyes include:
LipiFlow® Thermal Pulsation System
The LipiFlow® Thermal Pulsation System 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.
TrueTear™ Intranasal Tear Neurostimulator
The TrueTear™ Intranasal Tear Neurostimulator is a non-invasive and drug-free solution to inadequate tear production. TrueTear™ is a handheld device that is inserted into the nose to deliver small electrical currents, which temporarily treats dry eye by stimulating increased tear production.
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 with BlephEx™
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 eyelids and tear glands.
At Virginia Eye Consultants, we offer BlephEx, the first clinical treatment available for blepharitis. Previously, patients with this condition relied on home eyelid scrubs that were not always effective. BlephEx allows you to relax while our eye care professionals thoroughly clean the eyelid area with this specialized device that removes debris and bacteria with gentle precision.
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.
Contact Virginia Eye Consultants
We invite you to call and learn more about dry eye treatments and procedures. Contact us now to schedule your consultation with one of our dry eye doctors and learn about your options to treat dry eye.
1 Prevalence of Diagnosed Dry Eye Disease in the United States Among Adults Aged 18 Years and Older. American Journal of Ophthalmology. October 2017 Volume 182, Pages 90–98
The Doctors at Virginia Eye Consultants have either authored or reviewed and approved this content.