What Is Dry Eye Syndrome?

  • By Germaine Shock
  • 28 Oct, 2016

Do your eyes ever feel sandy or gritty? Do you have trouble working on the computer for long periods of time? Ever experience excessive tearing? If so, you could be suffering from dry eye syndrome. You might be able to guess that it has something to do with dryness based on the name, but in case you aren’t completely familiar with the condition, here is a brief run-down on all things dry eye.

What is it?

Typically when you blink, tears will spread across your eyes providing lubrication, protection from foreign matter, and a reduced risk of infection. Any excess tears drain into the small holes on the inner corners of the eyelids and down through ducts that run into the back of the nose (this is why your nose always runs when you cry).

As the name would suggest, dry eye - formally known as  keratoconjunctivitis sicca - is a condition in which the eyes feel dry due to an imbalance of the eye's drainage and production system. This can either be caused by an inadequate production of tears or tears that are themselves inadequate. Here’s a quick explanation of both:

  • Low supply of tears - There are several glands in the eyelids and surrounding the eyes that produce tears, including the lacrimal glands which are almond shaped and located near the brow bone. In the case of a low supply of tears, this gland - which is a main supplier of tears - no longer produces a normal tear volume.
  • Inadequate tear quality - Tears are made of three layers, the watery layer, an oily layer that helps prevent the watery layer from evaporating too quickly, and a mucous layer that helps spread the watery layer evenly across the eye. Typically when dry eye is caused by poor tear quality it is due to an inflammation or blockage of the meibomian glands which are responsible for producing the oily layer of tears.
illustration showing meibomian glands and the three layers of tears

What causes it?

Dry eye can either be a temporary or chronic condition depending on its cause. There are a wide array of things that can contribute to eye dryness including but not limited to:

  • The use of certain prescription and non-prescription medications
  • meibomian gland dysfunction
  • Pregnancy
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Allergies
  • Lasik surgery
  • Long hours spent working on the computer
  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Long-term contact lens wear
  • Immune system disorders
  • Environmental disturbances such as smoke
  • A dry climate
  • Incomplete eyelid closure while sleeping or blinking
  • The natural aging process
photo of a red eye
How is it diagnosed?

Your eye doctor will want to examine your eyes to rule out other possible conditions contributing to your discomfort. If dry eye syndrome is diagnosed, he or she will also need to determine the type and cause in order to recommend the best method of treatment for you. Some of the procedures that might be performed are an external evaluation of the eyelids and blink dynamics, an examination of the cornea, a measurement of the quantity of tears being produced, and an assessment of the quality of your tears. Your general health history, medication list, and environmental factors will also be taken into consideration.

Our office here at Precision Vision is also home to a diagnostic imaging device called the LipiScan which will capture high definition photos of the meibomian glands to determine if meibomian gland inflammation or blockage is the cause of dryness.
photo chart showing normal meibomian gland structure through significant gland loss

Symptoms

So what does dry eye feel like? Symptoms will vary by individual but can include:

  • Burning and stinging
  • Dryness
  • A sandy or gritty feeling
  • Excess tearing
  • Stringy discharge from the eyes
  • Blurry vision
  • Inability to cry
  • A decrease in comfort of contact lenses
  • Eye fatigue
  • A decrease in the tolerance for activities that require sustained visual attention such as reading and computer work
How is it treated?

Thankfully, dry eye isn’t typically a condition that can cause any permanent sight threatening damage, however, left untreated dry eye can cause painful ulcers, blurred vision, and scars on the cornea. There are several options for treatment depending on the cause and severity of your dry eye.

If the dryness is being caused by a systemic condition such as hypothyroidism, an underlying disease such as Sjogren's Syndrome, or a meibomian gland dysfunction these conditions will need to be treated first.

In the case of the dryness being caused as a side effect of a medication or from contact lens wear, adjustments can also be made here.
photo of EZ Tears Eye Vitamins

Another option is to fill the small drainage holes on the inner corners of the eyelids with a silicone or collagen material called a punctal plug. This procedure is painless and keeps the tears on the surface of the eye for a longer amount of time. In more severe cases these holes can be surgically closed.

There are also a number of over the counter and prescription eye drops that help to keep the eye lubricated such as Oasis Tears or Restasis (which actually helps the eye to produce more tears). Supplements such as Omega 3s and specially formulated eye vitamins like EZ Tears can also provide relief from the symptoms of dry eye. Of course, you should always check with your doctor before beginning any supplementation.

´╗┐Do you or anyone you know struggle with the symptoms of dry eye? Come see us for relief! 

Eye-Q

By Germaine Shock 06 Dec, 2017

Do your friends often comment on your ‘unique’ choices when it comes to matching colors and patterns? Being fashionably challenged might not be entirely your fault (or it could be). You might be having an extra difficult time due to color blindness.

Color blindness is actually somewhat of a misuse of the word as those affected by the condition can actually still see color - just with a more limited palette. Color vision deficiency is actually the more accurate term. However, there is a rare form of color vision deficiency known as achromatopsia where you are in fact completely devoid of color in your world- but we’ll get to that one a little later. For now, let’s start with the basics.

By Germaine Shock 01 Aug, 2017
By now most all of you have likely seen or are at least familiar with a solar eclipse. Without getting into too much of the scientific details, a solar eclipse happens when the moon moves between the sun and earth during its orbit causing a partial or complete blockage of our view of the sun. Although a solar eclipse only lasts for a few minutes, its thrilling impact will stay with you for much longer.
By Germaine Shock 20 Jul, 2017
School's out for summer! With a little extra free time and flexibility in your schedule, now is the perfect time to  bring your kiddos in for their eye health exams. Most parents will logically assume that since their child hasn’t had any complaints, they must not be having any problems - or that their child is simply too young to need an eye exam. Think again! 
By Germaine Shock 06 Jul, 2017
Sometimes when it comes to kiddos, you’ll find yourself navigating through some gray areas. For example, determining how much screen time is too much - or how old they should be to watch that scary movie. These definitive numbers are so hard to pinpoint simply because no two children are the same. They all mature at different rates, and we as parents have to adjust accordingly. Fortunately, here are a few tips to help in one of those gray areas -  figuring out if your child is ready for contact lenses.
By Germaine Shock 23 Jun, 2017
We have all made a questionable decision or two at least once in our lives. However, when it comes to your eyes and vision, this is one area where it is always better to be safe than sorry. Here are a few of the most common mistakes made by contact lens wearers and a safer alternative to keep those peepers healthy.
By Germaine Shock 14 Jun, 2017

More than likely if you are reading this, you’ve experienced the strange sensation of an eyelid twitch. It can happen anywhere, at any time, and almost always stops the moment you try to point it out to someone else (and of course resumes the second they turn away just to make you look extra crazy). Well you aren’t crazy - at least in this case - eyelid twitches are a real thing!

Myo-what?

Better known in professional lingo as “myokymia”, this twitching sensation is the result of involuntary, spontaneous, rippling muscle contractions. These spasms can actually occur in almost any of the muscles in your body. When relating to the eyelids, myokymia is most common in your lower lids but can happen in your top lids as well.

Eyelid myokymia is typically very temporary. The twitching will usually only last for a few minutes, but in some rare cases can last for a few days or even weeks.

Your doctor will likely advise you that there is no cause for concern as common Myokymia resolves on its own without the need for treatment. Other than causing mild annoyance, the eyelid twitching shouldn’t cause any long term complications or interference with your vision.
By Germaine Shock 01 Jun, 2017

Do your eyes ever feel dry and itchy? Do you ever experience eye fatigue, redness, blurred vision, or excessive watering? You could be suffering from dry eyes - especially if you live in Oklahoma City which ranks as the 17th driest city in the U.S. And despite the name, dry eye isn’t just an annoying feeling - it’s a legitimate chronic eye disease that affects an estimated 4.88 million Americans over the age of 50 alone. And since another estimated 89% of the population have never even heard of Dry Eye Syndrome, it’s easy to see why some would just write off those annoying symptoms as a normal part of their lives.

By Germaine Shock 16 May, 2017

In honor of Mother’s Day kicking off Women’s Week, the Eye- Q blog has decided to dedicate a post solely to women’s eye health related issues. So what makes women’s eye health so special? Women are actually more commonly affected than men by a number of ocular health issues including dryness, cataracts, age related macular degeneration, and complications from autoimmune disorders such as Sjogren's or lupus. Furthermore, according to Prevent Blindness America, 66% of people who are blind or visually impaired are women.

Let’s start with that statistic - why are women more at risk for eye complications than men?
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By Germaine Shock 25 Apr, 2017

No, it’s not a typo. Sjogren’s - pronounced show-grins - is a type of autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation and damage to various parts of the body; most commonly the tear and saliva glands. This damage results in symptoms ranging from dryness and discomfort to difficulty swallowing and can even affect the lungs and kidneys.

So why exactly does this happen? Let’s start with a quick health lesson. The immune system is responsible for fighting disease and killing harmful viruses and bacteria. However, with autoimmune diseases, your immune system has a hard time knowing when to stop fighting and mistakenly attacks your own body. With Sjogren’s, your exocrine glands - the glands that secrete moisture such as saliva, sweat, tears, breast-milk, gastric mucous, etc - become the main targets.
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