Dry eye disease is a dysfunctional tear condition that is one of the most common diagnoses in ophthalmology. It affects the tear film and ocular surface, resulting in ocular discomfort and visual problems.
The condition is characterized by tear instability, and it has the potential of damaging the cornea and conjunctiva. Failing to produce enough tears or producing poor quality tears causes dry eyes. Dry eyes often feel very uncomfortable, making it vital to get a proper diagnosis so you get effective treatment.
There are several risk factors for dry eyes. They include age, sex, computer use, and environment. Dry eyes usually affect older people, especially women. Contact lens wearers have a higher risk of developing dry eyes. Being in a low humidity environment can exacerbate dry eye conditions.
Other risk factors are autoimmune disorders and systemic medications. Eating a diet low in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A deficiency, and refractive surgery are also risk factors. The condition can also be caused by receiving radiation therapy.
There are several symptoms of dry eyes. These include sensitivity to light, a sensation of sand or grit in the eyes, blurry vision, and a burning or stinging sensation. Other symptoms are eye redness, stringy discharge in and around the eyes, difficulty wearing contacts, and difficulty driving at night.
Eye fatigue and watery eyes can also be signs of dry eyes. Many patients experience a reduction in visual acuity and contrast sensitivity due to the condition. This can affect work productivity and the overall quality of life.
Diagnosing dry eyes is based on the patient’s medical history and symptoms. When obtaining the patient history, the doctor will find out about systemic and topical medications that the patient uses. Identifying possible exposure to certain aggravating factors is helpful. Comprehensive eye exams help in the diagnosis of the eye condition.
There are tests to measure the volume of tears and determine the quality of tears. Diagnosis will also include a tear osmolarity test and looking for the disease markers. Diagnostic tests and exams help determine the best treatment.
The primary objective of dry eye treatment is to provide relief of symptoms and improve visual acuity. Treatment helps improve the patient’s quality of life and restore the tear film and ocular surface. Treatment options include the use of artificial tears, eye inserts, tear-stimulating drugs, and anti-inflammatory drug therapy.
There are physical and surgical procedures that help boost tear retention. Treatment is tailored to suit the individual patient’s needs. People with mild or occasional dry eye symptoms can benefit from eye drops or artificial tears.
If left untreated, dry eye can lead to inflammation that can damage the eye surface. The condition can result in an increased risk of developing an eye infection. Other complications include scarring or ulceration of the corneal surface and reduced quality of life.
In some situations, treating an underlying health condition can clear symptoms of dry eyes. If the condition is caused by certain medications, switching to a new drug can help. It is also important to make lifestyle changes to manage the condition.
To know more about diagnosing and treating dry eye, visit El Paso Eyecare at our office in El Paso, Texas. You can also call (915) 745-7960 to schedule an appointment today.