Living with dry eye syndrome, commonly referred to as dry eye, can be disruptive. Dry eyes can cause irritation, a constant feeling of something in the eye, grittiness, sensations of burning, blurry vision, and excessively watery eyes. In advanced cases of dry eye syndrome, the cornea can get damaged, and vision can be impaired.
Fortunately, there are several treatment options for dry eye syndrome at Highlands Optometry. Treatments range from over-the-counter medications to amniotic membranes, depending on the severity.
Dry eye refers to a condition where your eyes don't produce enough natural tears to keep your eyes properly lubricated. It can also occur when the tears you produce are of poor quality and evaporate before they can lubricate your eyes.
Anyone can get dry eye. However, there are factors that can increase your risk of developing the disease. These include:
Age: As you get older, your tear production can diminish. Dry eye is most common in people over 50.
Sex: Dry eye is more common in women. This is especially true during hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy, menopause, or when taking birth control.
Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions can cause dry eye. These include allergic eye disease, thyroid disorders, vitamin A deficiency, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, sarcoidosis, and scleroderma.
Medications: Certain medications list dry eye as a side effect. These include birth control, acne medication, antidepressants, decongestants, antihistamines, pills for high blood pressure, and hormone replacement therapy.
Long-term use of contact lenses
A dry eye can cause uncomfortable symptoms that can affect your vision. These include:
Feeling like there is something in your eye
A burning or stinging sensation
Mucus in the eyes
Redness of the eyes
Sensitivity to light
Trouble driving at night
A dry eye can be temporary or chronic. Temporary cases are often the result of environmental factors, such as excessively dry or windy climates or prolonged staring at a computer screen or other electronic device. In chronic dry eye syndrome cases, the eyes don't produce enough tears naturally. This issue can be due to age, certain medications, or underlying medical conditions such as diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis. Chronic dry eye may improve or worsen from time to time, but the symptoms never go away completely.
The first step in dry eye syndrome treatment, whether it's temporary or chronic, is getting a professional eye exam. The optometrists at Highlands Optometry will conduct an eye exam to determine if underlying conditions are contributing to your dry eye syndrome and its severity. From there, a treatment course is determined. A few options that may help you include:
Over-the-counter or prescription drugs: In some cases, artificial tears or an ointment can help lubricate the eyes and may be all that's needed to treat your dry eye syndrome. Some antibiotics have also been found to be beneficial in increasing oil production as well as reducing inflammation. This is a popular starting point for treatment since it is not invasive.
Punctal plugs: Eye doctors perform this procedure to close the tear ducts when the symptoms of dry eye syndrome cannot be treated with more traditional methods. If the tear ducts are closed, tears can stay in the eyes for long periods. Punctal plugs are removable and can be used to either partially or completely close the tear ducts.
Amniotic membranes: In severe dry eye cases when other treatment methods have been unsuccessful, eye doctors may turn to insert amniotic membranes. They essentially act as corneal bandages and are natural, anti-microbial, and anti-inflammatory. Amniotic membranes can also prevent patients from needing refractive surgery.
If you're experiencing dry eye symptoms, don't delay seeking treatment. Highlands Optometry has been serving the Virginia community for over 40 years, and we pride ourselves on the relationships we've made. Contact us today at 276-466-4227 (Bristol office) or 276-679-5612 (Wise office) to schedule your eye exam at one of our two convenient locations.