Dry Eyes
Dry eye disease, also called keratoconjunctivitis sicca or ocular surface disease, is a chronic condition caused by either decreased tear production or increased tear film evaporation. The continuous production and drainage of tears is important to maintaining the health of your eyes. The tears help to moisturize your eyes, protect against eye infection, and help wounds heal. Due to the complex nature of this condition and its tendency to mimic the symptoms of other problems like ocular allergies, dry eye disease is frequently under-diagnosed.

If you are experiencing symptoms of dry eye, you may notice a scratch or sandy feeling, burning or stinging, pain and redness, the feeling similar to having something in the eye (foreign body sensation), stringy or mucous discharge, and episodes of excess tearing. Many people with dry eye are surprised to notice their tears frequently run down their cheeks. Dry eye may even cause the vision to become blurred. You might notice some of these symptoms more often when using your eyes, while reading, using the computer, or watching television, for example.

There are two primary types of Dry Eye, evaporative or oil-deficient dry eye and aqueous or water-deficient dry eye. At West Michigan Eye & Laser, we use the most advanced technologies available to determine which type of dry eye is affecting you. This is especially important because your treatment may be quite different depending upon which type of dry eye is bothering you. Evaporative dry eye is the most common form and affects approximately 65% of people who suffer from dry eye. This is caused by meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) or blockage of naturally occurring glands within your eyelid that would normally produce the oil layer of your tears. Aqueous deficient dry eye may occur as a later consequence of ongoing dry eye as inflammation that develops on the eye’s surface leads to decreased water production by the lacrimal gland. The following illustration shows the three layers of the tear film and the oil-producing glands that can become obstructed.

Other Causes
Dry eye is more common in women, especially after menopause, as hormone changes are known to cause a worsening of dry eye. Dry eye can occur due to environmental factors such as evaporation of your tears by fans or air conditioner vents or low humidity environments such as airplane cabins. Medications may intensify dry eye symptoms, including antihistamines, decongestants, sedatives, and anti-depressant drugs.

Systemic disease may also cause dry eye, including connective tissue diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, thyroid problems, or Sjögren’s syndrome, among others. Problems affecting the anatomy of the eyelids causing incomplete function or closure may also play a role in dry eye syndrome.

Given the many factors that can lead to or worsen dry eye syndrome, an evaluation with one of West Michigan Eye & Laser’s trained eye care professional is highly recommended. Depending on the cause of your dry eye, you may need treatments including artificial tears, prescription eye medications, oral supplements, occlusion of your tear drainage system, or thermal pulsation therapy on the eyelids, among others.

A New Treatment
A breakthrough treatment, LipiFlow Thermal Pulsation Therapy, is available and will benefit most dry eye sufferers. This revolutionary 12-minute, in-office procedure works by applying direct energy to the blocked glands within the eyelids where it is most needed. In this way, a combination of gentle heat and intermittent pressure unblocks glands that may have become blocked over years of time. As a result, these glands can begin functioning normally and, in most cases, provide symptom relief.

At West Michigan Eye & Laser we offer a variety of ways to treat dry eyes. Treatments can vary from simple eye drops to surgery. Often, only drops will be necessary, but you should consult with your West Michigan Eye & Laser doctor to be sure. To learn more about the dry eye conditions click here. Or schedule an appointment and consult with a doctor to learn more about West Michigan Eye & Laser’s cutting-edge treatment options.