Dry Eye Symptoms and Causes
The “dry eye,” or keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), is one of the most common ocular conditions affecting patients. It affects 15-20% of the adult population in the U.S. Millions of Americans suffer from dry eye.
There are two main causes: decreased secretion of tears by the lacrimal (tear-producing) glands and loss of tears due to excess evaporation. Both can lead to eye discomfort, often described as feelings of dryness, burning, a sandy/gritty sensation, or itchiness. Visual fatigue, sensitivity to light, and blurred vision are also characteristic of dry eye.
These symptoms also can be a sign of other eye problems.
If you have any of these symptoms, call our San Antonio office at ☎ (210) 405-3450 or contact us online to schedule a comprehensive eye exam with Dr. Baribeau.
Dry Eye Diagnosis
The doctor may use tests to assess tear production, tear stability, and tear distribution. A slit-lamp examination using dyes that temporarily stain unhealthy tissue will reveal any abnormality or damage to the ocular surface. These tests typically cause little discomfort and are performed in the doctor’s office.
Dry Eye Treatment - What can be done for dry eyes?
Treatment options for dry eye depend on its causes and severity, so it is important to be examined by an eye doctor who is trained to diagnose and treat ocular diseases like Dr. Baribeau.
- Artificial tears are available over the counter. They can provide temporary relief from dry eye symptoms. Artificial tears contain water, salts, and polymers but lack the proteins found in natural tears. Patients who frequently use drops should choose a brand without preservatives or one with special non-irritating preservatives. Artificial tears are used to treat mild forms of dry eye or to supplement other treatments. People with dry eyes that don't respond to artificial tears alone will need to take additional steps to treat their dry eyes.
- Conserving tears. Keeping natural tears in the eyes longer can reduce the symptoms of dry eyes. This can be done by blocking the tear ducts through which the tears normally drain. The tear ducts can be blocked with tiny silicone or gel-like plugs that can be removed, if needed. Or a surgical procedure can permanently close the tear ducts. In either case, the goal is to keep the available tears in the eye longer to reduce problems related to dry eyes.
- Increasing tear production. Your eye specialist can prescribe eye drops that increase tear production. Taking an omega-3 fatty acid nutritional supplement may also help.
- Treating the contributing eyelid or ocular surface inflammation. Your eye specialist might recommend prescription eye drops or ointments, warm compresses and lid massage, or eyelid cleaners to help decrease inflammation around the surface of the eyes.
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