Ocular surface diseases are a group of problems including blepharitis, allergies and dry eye that affect the transparent layer in the front of the eye called the cornea. Nearly everyone suffers from some type of ocular surface disease at some point, and can experience temporarily dry, itchy or irritated eyes.
In some cases, the symptoms of ocular surface disease are mild or intermittent and can be alleviated with over-the-counter drops or medicine. On the other hand, the symptoms of ocular surface diseases like dry eye may be so constant and severe that they compromise personal comfort, visual function and quality of life.
Understanding Types of Dry Eye
There are two primary types of dry eye syndrome.
In aqueous tear deficiency dry eye, the eyes do not produce enough tears to stay sufficiently lubricated.
In evaporative dry eye, the composition of the tears is off. This often occurs due to a condition called meibomian gland dysfunction. The meibomian glands are tiny glands lining the inside of the eyelids that produce the oily layer of the tear film. If they become obstructed or otherwise malfunction, and oil production ceases, it disrupts the balance of the tear film. Without the oily layer, the tears evaporate too quickly off the surface of the eyes, and the eyes dry out.
Dry Eye Symptoms
Dry eye can cause the following symptoms:
- Red, burning or itchy eyes
- Sensitivity to light
- Excessive tearing or watery eyes
- Eye fatigue
- Blurry vision
- Foreign body sensation
- Difficulty wearing contact lenses
Dry Eye Testing
If you suspect you have dry eye, you should undergo a complete eye exam with one of our eye doctors. During the appointment, we will inspect the surface of your eyes, your eyelids and the other structures of your eyes. We will measure the quantity and thickness of your tears. We will also measure their osmolarity (the saltiness of the tears) using the TearLab test. If your tear osmolarity is too high, it may damage your ocular surface cells.
We can use the LipiView technology to capture images of your meibomian glands to confirm or rule out meibomian gland dysfunction. This system also helps us analyze your blinking function to determine whether that has worsened your dry eye.
Dry Eye Treatment Options
Treating dry eye depends on the root cause of the problem.
LipiFlow is a popular treatment for meibomian gland dysfunction. It uses a combination of heat and gentle massage to express blocked or clogged meibomian glands. By stimulating the proper function of the glands, LipiFlow can help improve the composition of the tears so they do not evaporate prematurely.
Another exciting innovation in the treatment of dry eye and other types of ocular surface disease is the use of an amniotic membrane. This tissue has incredible protective and therapeutic properties. It reduces inflammation and pain and soothes the eye’s surface, helping it to return to a healthy and comfortable state.
Similar to a contact lens, Prokera can be inserted into the eye in our office. Normally, the device stays in the eye for about three to five days.
Contact Our Dry Eye Doctors
If you are experiencing uncomfortable symptoms consistent with dry eye syndrome, you should undergo an eye exam with our doctors. Please contact us today to schedule an appointment.