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Dry Eye Disease

by Christopher M. Spearman, M.D.

What is dry eye disease?
Dry eye is a disease affecting the surface of the eye, characterized by an unstable tear film along with ocular symptoms, attributable to multiple underlying factors. Dry eye symptoms include burning/stinging, pain, irritation, grittiness, scratchiness, sensitivity to cold air or wind, redness, watering/tearing, and blurred vision.

What causes dry eyes?
Risk factors for dry eye disease include:

  • Age - increased age is associated with decreased tear production and meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD). Meibomian glands are responsible for producing the oil component of our natural tears. Decreased oil decreases the effectiveness of the tears.
  • Gender - females are at increased risk for dry eyes due to changes in hormones that occur with pregnancy and menopause.
  • Medications - many medications may increase a person’s risk for dry eyes, including antihistamines and decongestants.
  • Medical conditions - Certain medical conditions are associated with dry eyes, including Sjogren’s syndrome, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, and thyroid disease.
  • Environmental conditions - exposure to dry air, wind, and smoke can increase tear evaporation resulting in dry eye symptoms. Activities like staring at a computer screen, reading, or even long distance driving can decrease the frequency of blinking, which results in increased dry eye symptoms.

How is dry eye disease diagnosed?
Dry eye disease can be diagnosed during a routine eye exam focusing on the function of the tear film and the status of the ocular surface.

Current treatment options
Ask your eye doctor about what treatment options would be right for you.
Treatment for dry eye symptoms starts with the use of artificial tears, which are available over-the-counter. Avoid “red-eye” drops that are designed to mask the redness without treating the underlying problem. Using warm compresses on the eyelids can help improve the oil component of the tears. Other options may include punctal plugs and anti-inflammatory drops.

Clinical Trials
There are many new treatments for dry eyes that are currently being investigated in clinical trials. If you are interested in participating in a clinical trial, call The Eye Research Institute of Scott & Christie Eyecare at (724) 772-3000.

For more information or to schedule an evaluation please visit www.scottandchristie.com or call (724) 772-5420 Cranberry or  (412) 782-0400 Fox Chapel.

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