July is known for a lot of things, like trips to the beach, time off from school for the kids and… dry eyes? While maybe a lesser known fact about this month, it’s true - July is actually Dry Eye Awareness Month. In case you didn’t know, the eye pain caused by dryness can be really uncomfortable and even turn serious.
If you’ve ever experienced stinging eyes or the feeling of sand in your eyes, you probably understand why so many people are concerned with how to avoid eye dryness. It’s no fun at all. Here’s a look at what dry eyes may be caused by, what our screening process is like and how we can help.
What Causes Dry Eyes?
There are three layers to your tear film: lipid (oil), aqueous (water) and mucus. All the layers help protect and nourish the surface of your eyes. If any of them aren’t functioning properly, your tears might evaporate rapidly or not reach the entire surface of the eye, causing irritation and other dry eye symptoms. Dry eyes affect more than 23 million people in the U.S., and that number continues to rise thanks to how much our society uses electronic devices.
There are three different types of dry eye conditions that could be to blame, including Aqueous Deficient Dry Eyes (a lack of the watery substance in the tear film of our eyes); Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (when the glands fail to produce the oil they’re supposed to); and Blepharitis (chronic inflammation near the eyelids).
Symptoms of dry eye include grittiness, burning, watering, redness, fluctuating vision, fatigue, light sensitivity, eye pain and intolerance to contact lenses. If left untreated, dry eyes could cause ulcers, permanent damage to the cornea or even vision loss. It can also signal an underlying medical conditions. For these reasons, we highly recommend you come in to be seen by one of our doctors, if you even suspect you might have dry eye.
What’s our Screening Process?
When you come in to get checked for dry eye, your eye doctor might use a variety of screening tools depending on your particular symptoms. They’ll likely start with the SPEED Dry Eye Questionnaire, which helps them find out the frequency and severity of the issue. Then they may use Lipiview Interferometry, which measures the lipid content of your tear film and evaluates your blinking patterns and/or a Tear Osmolarity test to check the stability of your tears.
From there, your doctor might conduct Inflammadry tests for the MMP9 marker to determine the presence of inflammation and take Oculus Keratograph images of your meibomian glands so they can see if you have gland loss.
Once this process is completed, the doctor will study the images, evaluate the full scope of your condition and then suggest a course of treatment. Treatment may include one or a combination of several therapies. These possible treatments include OTC drops, gels and ointments, short-term medicated drops, long-term medicated drops, Omega 3 supplements, punctal plugs and Lipiflow, etc. The good news is we can almost always treat even the worst dry eye conditions, as long as we catch them early.
So, we invite you to contact us if you’d like to schedule an appointment.