Do you suffer from dry, gritty, itchy and scratchy eyes? Are your eyes overly sensitive or do they water excessively? These may be symptoms of a very common condition called Dry Eye. Dry Eye is a chronic condition involving poor tear quality, ocular surface damage, and sometimes reduced tear production. In addition to the physical symptoms caused by dry eyes, having dry eyes can make it difficult to wear contact lenses comfortably and can cause reduced vision depending on the severity of the dryness.
Although Austin is a wonderful place to live, it does have a high number of allergens that cause eye allergies and dryness. Cedar, ragweed, and other environmental allergens can increase inflammation on the surface of the eye, making the eyes red, swollen, and itchy. Dry eye and ocular allergy can feed off each other; inflammation from allergy causing increased dryness, and alternatively if your eyes are dry, this makes them more susceptible to allergens. If allergy is identified, our doctors can provide treatment recommendation including prescription strength anti-allergy eyedrops and dry eye therapy.
When many people think about their eyes being dry, they think that the dryness is caused by a lack of tear production. Your tears are actually made up of three main components: water, mucous, and lipids. The watery, or aqueous portion of the tears are produced by the lacrimal gland above the eye. Mucous is produced by cells in the eyelids and lipids (oils) are produced by the meibomian glands that run vertically through the upper and lower eyelids. New research over the last decade has shown that a large percentage of dry eye is actually cause by a disfunction of the meibomian glands. The root cause of almost all dry eye is inflammation, which then causes these gland disfunctions.
At Great Hills Eye Care our team of eye doctors take a structured treatment approach to treating dry eye. Our optometrists will carefully review your history and symptoms to form a picture of the severity and potential cause of the dryness. We then perform a complete Dry Eye Evaluation using advanced technology where we can objectively measure tear film function and image the meibomian glands. After a thorough evaluation we will identify the cause of your dry eye and initiate a treatment plan targeted to relieve symptoms and help cure the dryness. Dry Eye is a chronic condition and may be related to systemic medical conditions so proper follow up is critical to determine if the recommended treatment is helping and to adjust treatment as needed.
Some of the treatment options for dry eye include:
- tear supplementation with over-the-counter artificial tears
- prescription dry eye eyedrops such as Restasis or Xiidra
- heat therapy to promote normal meibomian gland function
- Lid scrubs and foaming eyelid cleanser to reduce overproduction of bacteria
- Bleph-Ex treatment to remove eyelid biofilm and meibomian gland blockages
For many patients, dry eye is linked to meibomian gland disfunction and blepharitis. Blepharitis is a common condition where a biofilm forms on the eyelid margin. This biofilm is similar to how plaque forms on our teeth, except in the case of the eye we are not regularly deep cleaning the eyelids where this biofilm forms. This biofilm causes an overproduction of bacteria and inflammation which causes the meibomian glands to become clogged or to die off, leading to severe dry eye. We are proud to offer the Bleph-Ex procedure in our office which enables us to remove this harmful biofilm and promote normal gland function.
Dry eye is considered a medical condition so office visits related to your condition may be covered under your major medical insurance. Some advanced diagnostic procedures like meibomian gland imaging and Bleph-Ex may not be covered and we are happy to offer these services with low self-pay fees.
Dr. Provost, Dr. Carneglia, Dr. Tillotson, and Dr. Patel are available to help you chart the course in your dry eye treatment. Call or text our office to request an appointment or click the button below to request an appointment online. We look forward to helping you see clearly and keep your eyes healthy!