Have you ever experienced irritation, redness, grittiness, or pain in your eyes? Many people have experienced similar conditions, often remaining unsure of what the cause is. If you have experienced these types of symptoms, you may be at risk for or currently progressing towards a condition called "Dry Eye". Our eye experts see patients from all parts of Orange County and can diagnose and effectively treat eye conditions.
In general, your eye depends on the flow of tears to provide constant moisture and lubrication of the surface of the eye. Without this moisture, your vision and comfort level will be impaired. Tears are formed by secretion by special glands located around the eye. The actual tear is a combination of water, oils, mucus, antibodies, and special proteins. This liquid is designed to lubricate, moisturize, and provide resistance to infections for your eye. When there is an imbalance in the tear system, you may be prone to experiencing dry eye1.
Dry eye can be caused by a number of different outside irritants as well as by internal causes2. Technically anyone can experience dry eye. It is found more frequently in females, especially around postmenopausal age. Dry eye is also commonly found in pregnant women, patients with rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or people who have had eye surgeries like refractive surgery. Additionally, those who are sensitive to certain climate conditions such as heavy winds or dry air may develop dry eye, in addition to people who are exposed to cigarette smoke or forced air (air conditioning units). Those who may spend a large amount of time looking at the computer or other screens are more likely to develop dry eye. Not blinking as often as necessary can increase the risk of developing dry eye.
The most common cause of dry eye is hormonal changes, which can affect tear production. In addition to the many potential causes mentioned above, dry eye may also be caused by certain medications for various reasons. Patients who are using diuretics for high blood pressure, beta-blockers for heart health or high blood pressure, antihistamines for allergies, sleeping pills, pain relievers, or other medications may be more likely to experience dry eye.
Dry eye is typically diagnosed by one of our Orange County ophthalmologists by performing a simple eye examination. In some cases, tests that measure tear production may be performed, although these tests are not always necessary. A Schirmer tear test typically involves placing a filter-paper under the lower eye to measure the rate of tear production under different conditions. An alternative test involves placing dye drops in the eye and observing how long it takes for dry spots to develop on the cornea. But most often, a simple examination with a trained specialist can allow them to diagnose dry eye based on the appearance of the ocular surface.
Although dry eyes may not be able to be cured completely, there are solutions that our board-certified eye doctors can recommend in order to alleviate the conditions caused by dry eye. Treatment options for dry eye include artificial tear drops and ointments, temporary (or long-term) punctual occlusion, as well as different medical devices and products.
Artificial tear drops and ointments can help lubricate your eyes and maintain moisture, recreating the experience your body would normally create. Artificial tear drops are available over the counter without a prescription. The latest generation of eye lubricants is available at Beach Eye Medical Group.
Punctual plugs are designed to help conserve the tears you are naturally producing. Tears drain out of your eye through a small channel into the nose under normal conditions. Our ophthalmologists can close this channel either temporarily or permanently with punctual plugs. The process should conserve your own tears, as well as make your artificial tears last longer.
Restasis is a prescription eye drop designed specifically for the treatment of dry eye. The treatment is designed to help your eyes increase their own tear production with continued use.
Amniotic Membrane Graft (such as Prokera) is a medical device that is designed to protect, repair, and heal damaged or inflamed eyes. The amniotic membrane tissue will help damaged or inflamed eye surfaces heal faster, which results in less pain, less scarring, and less inflammation.
1 Dry eyes. Available: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dry-eyes/symptoms-causes/syc-20371863
2 What Is Dry Eye? Symptoms, Causes and Treatment Available: https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/what-is-dry-eye
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