Our eyes rely on a thin layer of tear film to protect them from bacteria and other harmful substances, keep them comfortable, and enable us to see clearly. Unfortunately, some people don’t have enough tear film, or the quality of their tear film is compromised to the degree that is it no longer effective. This is known as dry eye.
Dry eye is a very common condition that will affect most people at some point during their lifetime. For many people, it will resolve itself fairly quickly, probably without the need for treatment. However, if your symptoms persist for more than a week, or if they are starting to affect your day-to-day comfort and vision, it’s advisable to seek advice from your eye doctor.
There are many different symptoms associated with dry eye. However, some of them also overlap with other eye conditions. For this reason, we strongly recommend that if you notice any of the following, you schedule an appointment with your eye doctor for further investigation. They can perform specific tests to determine if you should receive a diagnosis of dry eye.
You may have dry eyes if your eyes are:
Gritty or feeling as though you have something in them
Sensitive to light
More watery than usual
You may also experience blurred vision.
There are several different assessments and evaluations which may be carried out in order to confirm or reject a diagnosis of dry eye. These could include:
As the name suggests, this test is performed to determine how much tear film you produce. It is also known as a Schirmer test. During the assessment, tiny blotting strips of paper will be placed under the lower eyelids for a short period of time – usually five minutes. After this time, your eye doctor will remove them to determine how moist they are. This will indicate how much tear film you are producing.
In some cases, tear volume testing is performed using a thread filled with PH-sensitive dye rather than blotting paper. Tear film will change the color of the dye, again indicating how much is being produced.
It’s not just how much tear film you produce that is important. Tear film is made from a combination of oils, water, and mucus and if the balance of these components is off, your tear film may not be as effective as it should be. There are several different tests that can be performed to find out how much water and oil make up your tear film.
If your eye doctor decides that you aren’t producing enough tear film, or if the quality of your tear film is poor, a comprehensive eye exam that looks at all aspects of the health of your eyes could indicate what is causing the condition. This is more than just an eye test, but also involves looking inside your eye at the different structures to ensure that they are healthy and there are no abnormalities.
The good news is that dry eye can be treated. Exactly what treatment will work best for you will primarily depend on what your eye doctor believes is the underlying cause of your dry eye. For example, there isn’t much point in applying punctal plugs to your eyes if your dry eye is caused by your body not making enough tear film. However, punctal plugs are often a very effective solution for people who have dry eye because their tear film is draining too quickly.
Your eye doctor will talk to you about what they believe is the underlying cause of your dry and explain the treatments that they think are best suited to you. These could include eye drops, medications, warm compresses, massage, light therapy treatment, or more.
If you would like to learn more about dry eye, or to schedule an appointment to discuss your symptoms, please contact our friendly eyecare experts at Houston Dry Eye Clinic in Houston, Texas at (713) 664-4760 today.