When you have symptoms of dry eye, the first thing your eye doctor will do is perform a comprehensive eye exam with special emphasis on the evaluation of the quantity and quality of tears produced by the eyes. Your eye health history is important, so make sure to tell your doctor about any general health issues, environmental factors, or medication that may be affecting your eyes. Your doctor will exam the outside of your eye, as well as the eyelids and cornea. Finally your doctor will measure the quantity and quality of your tears. Special dyes may be inserted in your eyes to better observe tear flow and to highlight any changes to the outer surface of the eye caused by insufficient tears. At the end of the exam your doctor will determine what is causing your dry eye symptoms.
What are my treatment options?
- Adding tears – If your case of dry eyes is mild, it may be managed by using over-the-counter artificial tear solutions. These can be used as often as needed to supplement natural tear production. Preservative-free artificial tear solutions are recommended because they contain fewer additives that could further irritate the eyes.
- Conserving tears – An additional approach to reducing the symptoms of dry eyes is to keep natural tears in the eyes longer. 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. A surgical procedure to permanently close tear ducts can also be used. 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 – Prescription eye drops that help to increase production of tears may be an option. Taking omega-3 fatty acid nutritional supplements may also help increase tear production.
- Treatment of eyelid inflammation – Prescription eye drops or ointments, warm compresses and lid massage, or eyelid cleaners may be recommended to help decrease inflammation around the surface of the eyes.
What steps can I take on my own to help relieve my dry eye symptoms?
- Remember to blink regularly when reading or staring at a computer screen for long periods of time.
- Increase the level of humidity in the air at work and at home.
- Wear sunglasses outdoors, particularly those with wrap around frame design, to reduce exposure to drying winds and sun.
- Use nutritional supplements containing essential fatty acids. These supplements may help decrease dry eye symptoms
- Avoiding becoming dehydrated by drinking plenty of water (8 to 10 glasses) each day.
If you suspect that you may have dry eye syndrome, make an appointment today with Dr. Min or Dr. Sims at Northwest Vision Center.