What Is Dry Eye Disease?

July 19, 2021 – Dr. Barr

What Is Dry Eye Disease? Palm Beach Plastic Surgery | Call 561-833-4122

Dry Eye is a chronic condition that causes eye irritation, redness, blurry vision, and inflammation. In severe cases, Dry Eye can even lead to scarring and permanent deterioration of the patient’s vision.

About 20% of Americans have experienced Dry Eye symptoms to some degree. Susceptible populations include older people, smokers, contact lens users, and people who spend much of their time in front of screens.

Why does Dry Eye occur, and what are the treatment options? Plastic and Cosmetic Surgeon Fredric M. Barr, M.D., F.A.C.S., answers these questions below.

Symptoms of Dry Eye Disease

Frequently occurring symptoms of Dry Eye include:

  • Eye irritation, burning, stinging, redness, or a “scratchy” feeling
  • A sensation similar to a foreign object in the eye
  • Watery eyes
  • Light sensitivity
  • Excessive eye fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Stringy mucus inside or around the eyes

Dry Eye can significantly interfere with a patient’s routine activities like reading or driving. Although common, Dry Eye may be tricky to diagnose. For instance, patients complaining of impaired eyesight can achieve perfect results on a test if they blink before reading.

What Causes Dry Eye Disease?

Disrupted tear production or an issue with any of the tear components can cause Dry Eye symptoms. The tear film, which keeps the eye surface lubricated and clean, includes three elements:

  1. A lipid from the Meibomian glands (meibum)
  2. An aqueous substance from the lacrimal glands
  3. Mucin from the goblet cells

The aqueous part of the tear film provides moisture, the lipid delays evaporation, and the mucous component spreads and anchors the tears over the eye surface.

A Dry Eye condition generally belongs to one of two types: evaporative (about 85% of all dry eye cases) and aqueous-deficient.

Evaporative Dry Eye usually happens because of Meibomian gland dysfunction. Meibomian glands are tiny oil glands along the eyelid edges. Normally, these glands secrete meibum, a lipid that prevents the tear film from evaporating too quickly. When the Meibomian glands don’t produce enough meibum, the tear film dries up rapidly and fails to retain moisture.

Aqueous-Deficient Dry Eye occurs when the lacrimal glands don’t secrete enough tear fluid. Several factors, such as aging, inflammation, and nerve damage, may impair lacrimal gland function.

Although it is rare, Dry Eye may occur due to inflammatory autoimmune diseases like Sjögren syndrome. Before starting treatment, the doctor must rule out any underlying systemic conditions.

Dry Eye Disease Treatment

Usually, an ophthalmologist will recommend one or more of the following treatment options to Dry Eye patients:

  • Artificial tear eye drops (over-the-counter or prescription)
  • Lifestyle recommendations such as limiting screen time, avoiding dehydration, using soft contacts, etc.
  • Vitamin B12 supplements in cases of deficiency
  • Warm compresses or manual expression for clogged Meibomian glands

In severe Dry Eye cases, the ophthalmologist may even recommend punctal cauterization, a procedure that closes tear ducts permanently to prevent tear draining and retain moisture.

Why Artificial Tears Usually Aren’t a Real Solution to Dry Eye Disease

Although tear-replacement eye drops may relieve symptoms in patients suffering from aqueous-deficient dry eye, they don’t provide an adequate solution for evaporative dry eye. In cases of Meibomian gland dysfunction, the problem is quick evaporation rather than insufficient tear production.

Evaporative Dry Eye patients usually don’t have a problem with their lacrimal glands. They produce enough tears, so adding more won’t help because the tear film simply keeps evaporating, and the patient keeps suffering chronic discomfort.

Additionally, prolonged artificial tear use can be harmful if the eye drops contain preservatives. Over time, artificial tears can increase eye irritation and dryness.

TearCareⓇ: An Advanced Solution to Dry Eye Disease

Patients who experience persistent symptoms of Dry Eye often enjoy significant improvement with TearCareⓇ, an innovative treatment that works effectively in cases of dry eye resulting from Meibomian gland dysfunction.

During a TearCareⓇ procedure, two pliable eyelid devices administer mild heat to the Meibomian glands. The warmth helps liquefy the meibum, reduce inflammation, and encourage tear production.

TearCareⓇ is a safe, quick treatment method that usually involves little to no discomfort for the patient. Besides symptomatic relief, it can also help preserve vision and Meibomian gland function. The effects of TearCareⓇ usually last several months.

The procedure is a good fit for people who are at least 22 and do not suffer from eye surface abnormalities. Dr. Fredric M. Barr of West Palm Beach, FL, is the first plastic surgeon in the country to offer TearCareⓇ to Dry Eye patients.

Are You Ready to Put an End to Dry Eye Disease? Schedule an Appointment with Dr. Fredric Barr

Are you suffering from Dry Eye? Have you tried a range of conventional treatment methods that brought only temporary or partial relief? Schedule a consultation with Dr. Fredric M. Barr, a Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon with three decades of experience and an outstanding patient care record. Call our West Palm Beach, FL, office at 561-833-4122 or fill out our online form.

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