1. What are the common symptoms of dry eye, and when would you recommend that a patient comes into the practice for an exam?
There are several symptoms a person can have when they have dry eyes which include: irritated, gritty, scratchy, or burning eyes, a feeling of something in the eyes, chronic redness, excess watering, and blurred vision. Any of these symptoms should indicate a visit to your eye care professional because many other conditions such as allergies and infection can cause these symptoms as well. Dry eye occurs when the eye does not produce tears properly, or when the tears are not of the right consistency and they evaporate too quickly. A visit to your eye care professional can rule out which type of dry eye you have and the proper treatment plan required for good ocular health.
2. What types of tests or examination is conducted in the office when checking for dry eye?
Dry eyes can be diagnosed at a comprehensive eye examination. An eye care professional will use many elements of the examination to access tear film quality. These tests typically include a patient’s history and symptoms, external examination of the eye, and even measurement and of the tears using special dyes. Using the information obtained, your Optometrist can then decide which treatment will work best.
3. What treatments are available and most commonly used to treat dry eye?
There are various treatments available to treat dry eye. Although dry eye is a chronic condition, there are several approaches the Optometrist can use to keep your eyes more comfortable. Treatments focus on adding tears, conserving tears, and reducing inflammation of the eyelids or eye surface. It is also important to determine if there is an underlying condition (i.e. Sjorgren’s) or medication that is contributing to the dry eye. Mild cases of dry eye can usually be controlled with over the counter artificial tears. In order to reduce inflammation and increase tear production, your Optometrist might also prescribe a cyclosporine drop. There are also nutritional supplements that can be used to increase tear production such as omega-3 fatty acids. An additional approach is to keep the natural tears in the eye longer. This can be done by blocking the tear ducts that drain the tears away from the eye with temporary silicone plugs.