Dry eye syndrome (DES) is a chronic condition that develops when your eyes do not produce and maintain enough tears to keep the eye’s surface lubricated resulting in multiple symptoms that range from person to person. This can be due to a reduction in tear production or increased tear evaporation from a lack of lipid in the tears that stem from oil glands in the eyelids. The effects can range from minor dryness and discomfort to pain, blurred vision and frequent infections.
Symptoms of Dry Eye Disease
Symptoms of dry eye syndrome can vary depending on the severity of the condition but can include:
- Dry, itchy eyes
- Burning or stinging
- Watery eyes
- Blurred vision
- Foreign body sensation
The main function of tears is to maintain the health of the cornea of your eye by washing away foreign matter and ensuring that the surface of your eye remains moist, smooth and clear. Tears also rinse away dust particles from your eyes and contain enzymes that protect your eyes from bacteria that can cause infections. Dry eyes is a condition that develops when the amount of tears produced is not sufficient to maintain the moisture balance in your eye. This can result in that scratchy sensation, a continuous feeling of dryness, stinging and a sensation of a foreign body in your eye. Ironically in an effort to fight off the condition, dry eyes can cause you to produce excessive tears, which is why some people experience watery eyes.
Causes of Dry Eye Disease
Dry eyes can occur naturally as a result of aging or hormonal changes, typically in women who are pregnant, taking oral contraceptives or going through menopause. In fact, women over 50 have a 50% greater risk of dry eye disease than men do of the same age. It can also result from taking certain medications that reduce tear production such as antihistamines, blood pressure medications and antidepressants. Environmental factors can also play a role in drying out the eyes and DED is common in areas where the climate is dry, dusty and windy. Home air conditioners or heating systems and excessive time spent staring at a computer or television screen can also dry out eyes and exacerbate symptoms due to the lack of blinking while staring at our screens.
Individuals that suffer from certain medical conditions such as diabetes, blepharitis, lupus, arthritis and thyroid problems are more vulnerable to developing DED. Other causes can be due to eye surgery including LASIK, certain conditions in which the eyelids don’t close properly or extended contact lens use.
Diagnosis of Dry Eye Disease in Winnipeg
Typically, dry eye disease can be diagnosed through a comprehensive eye exam and a description of your symptoms. On some occasions the eye doctor might decide to do a test that measures how quickly your tears evaporate from the surface of your eye. By instilling a simple dye called fluorescein (much like food coloring) the doctor is able to watch and count how long it takes the tears to start to break up after they’ve asked you to hold your eyes open after a blink. This is called TBUT or a Tear Break Up Time test. A low TBUT generally indicates a lipid (aka oil) deficiency in the tears resulting from oil glands in the eyelids not functioning properly. In another type of test, called a Schirmer test, a strip of filter paper is placed under the lid of the eye and you will be asked to close your eye for five minutes. Following the test the amount of moisture on the strip will be measured. Schirmer tests are performed less frequently than a TBUT test.
Medical Intervention for Dry-Eye Syndrome
Dry-eye syndrome can be a chronic condition that gets progressively worse if not treated. Talk with our doctors, dry eye experts, about medical advances in the treatment of dry-eye syndrome including immunomodulators such as Restasis or Xiidra. Other medical options include Amniotic Membranes, Autologous Serum Eye Drops and Steroid/Antibiotics if needed.
Intense Pulsed Light Therapy (IPL)
IPL is a light energy therapy originally used to remove irregular skin discoloration. It was discovered during the treatment of skin disorders such as Rosacea that IPL was also very effective as a dry eye treatment.
IPL is a non-invasive and painless procedure that is done in the doctor’s office. Intense pulses of light are applied underneath and above your eyelash line. Typically, the only sensation patients feel during the procedure is the application of moderate heat or a elastic-band sensation. Recovery is overnight. Many patients report improvement after only one treatment, though several may be required.
Radiofrequency Therapy (RF)
This non-invasive dry eye treatment can be performed in our doctor’s office. It uses Radio-Frequency energy to generate heat which is applied to the skin around the eyes. This heat induces the dermal heating required to stimulate collagen formation, bringing white blood cells, anti-inflammatory mediators and stem cells to the skin around your eyes. This new collagen production stimulates the tightening of the skin, eliminates fine lines and circles under the eyes. Most importantly, it significantly aids in opening up clogged tear glands, allowing for improved tear production and secretion. This treatment is most often used along with Meibomian Gland Expression. 3-4 treatments are typically needed and touch-ups yearly!
We encourage you to browse our site to see what services are available at Eyes in the Village in Winnipeg. Whether you need your next pair of eyeglasses or you need a comprehensive optometry exam, we are here for you. Schedule an appointment online or call us today!