Dry eye is a common, chronic eye condition that occurs when your tears don't properly lubricate your eyes. When your eyes are chronically dry, you don’t make enough tears or the right quality of tears to keep the surface of your eyes moist and comfortable. Usually, both eyes are affected. This condition causes discomfort and distraction especially if you are on an airplane, in an air-conditioned room, riding a bike or looking at a computer screen for too long.
What are the symptoms of dry eye?
A complete examination by one of our corneal specialists is the best way to know for certain if you have this condition. Schedule an exam if you have the following symptoms:
- Pain, burning or scratchy sensation
- Thin, string-like mucus
- Sensitivity to light
- A sensation of having a foreign object in your eye
- Difficulty wearing contact lenses
- Difficulty with nighttime driving
- Watery eyes – the body's response to irritation
- Blurred vision or eye fatigue
A chronic eye condition has a big impact on your life. If your eyes feel uncomfortable, it’s best to come in for an eye examination by one of our ophthalmologists. During your exam, you and your ophthalmologist will discuss treatment options based on your age, the severity of your situation and your tolerance for certain medications and procedures.
Slit Lamp Evaluation - Using this instrument, your doctor examines the surface of your eye to diagnose your condition. The slit lamp provides a magnified image of your tear film, the surface of your eye and eyelids. It also allows your doctor to view the front chamber of your eye and iris.
Schirmer Test - This test determines whether your tear glands produce enough tears to keep your eyes moist. To prepare for the test, your eye care professional puts numbing drops in your eyes. Next, calibrated strips of non-toxic paper are gently placed within your lower eyelids. After keeping your eyes closed for five minutes, the strips are removed and the technician measures the amount of moisture on the strips.
Ocular Surface Staining - While using the slit lamp, your eye care professional applies non-toxic eye drops that briefly stain the surface of your eye. This identifies areas with insufficient tear flow and excessive dryness.
Tear Osmolarity Testing - This quick, painless test reliably measures tear osmolarity. Using a small device with a sensor, your eye care professional gently places the device tip inside your eyelid. After several seconds, the sensor displays a tear osmolarity reading. Similar to a digital thermometer that takes your body temperature, the device measures the osmolarity of the tissues bathed in the tear film.
Tear MMP-9 Testing - Using this device, your eye care professional briefly collects a small fluid sample from inside your eyelid. The device measures MMP-9, a protein molecule which indicates inflammation.
Lifestyle Modification - Your eyes may benefit from simple actions such as:
- Limit screen time
- Quit smoking
- Get enough sleep
- Flax seed oil and omega-3 fatty acid supplements
- Apply warm, moist compresses to your eyes
- Take breaks from contact lenses
- Wear sunglasses outdoors
- Avoid using ceiling fans or lower the speed
- Use a humidifier
Eye Drops - Your doctor may suggest using artificial, preservative-free eye drops.
Treat Underlying Causes - A thorough exam reveals the reasons behind your discomfort and helps your ophthalmologist develop a treatment plan.
Special Contact Lenses - If you have contact lens-induced dry eye (CLIDE) symptoms, your ophthalmologist may suggest special lenses that reduce discomfort. Severe conditions may benefit from scleral or bandage lenses. These preserve moisture and protect the surface of your eyes.
Medications - If you feel like you have sand in your eye or your eyelashes are crusted together every morning, your eyelids could be inflamed. Your doctor may suggest using warm compresses or gently scrubbing your eyelids with tear-free baby shampoo. If this doesn’t work, antibiotic eye drops, ointment or cream could eliminate symptoms. Oral antibiotics also help some patients.
Tear Duct Plug Inserts - In this quick, painless treatment, your ophthalmologist puts tiny plastic or collagen plugs in your tear duct openings to keep tears from draining out. This is not a permanent solution – plastic plugs may fall out and need replacing. Collagen plugs absorb over time and need replacing.
Tear-stimulating Drugs - If artificial tears do not provide relief, your physician may prescribe Restasis eye drops. These drops relieve inflamed tear glands and help produce more tears. Xiidra drops also stop inflammation and relieve symptoms.
Thermal Pulsation - If blocked oil glands caused your problem, thermal pulsation may help. In this treatment, a device similar to an eyecup is placed over your eye. This delivers a gentle, warm massage to your lower eyelid.
Intense-pulsed Light (IPL) Therapy - Intense-pulsed light therapy (IPL), followed by eyelid massage, opens clogged eyelid glands. This allows oil to flow into the tear film, which moistens the eye.
Why Choose Bascom Palmer Eye Institute?
Consistently Excellent Vision Care. U.S. News & World Report ranks Bascom Palmer #1 in the nation for ophthalmology care. Our physicians are not only some of the brightest researchers and renowned eye experts, they’re compassionate caregivers who treat you as an individual.
University-based Medicine. Backed by the University of Miami Health System, we give patients a detailed diagnosis, up-to-the-minute treatment options and highly specialized care. Our doctors and scientists raise the bar on eye care through research, teaching and through sharing knowledge with ophthalmologists worldwide.
Today’s Top Treatments. Your future eye health depends on the treatment you receive today. That’s why we give you access to the most sophisticated treatment methods and technologies available.
Patient-centered Care. Your eye care team is with you every step of the way, from diagnosis to treatment to follow-up care. We work closely with you to resolve your condition or to manage it in the best possible way.