Dry eye syndrome (DES or dry eye) is a chronic lack of sufficient lubrication and moisture on the surface of the eye. Its consequences range from minor irritation to the inability to wear contact lenses and an increased risk of corneal inflammation and eye infections.
Signs and Symptoms of Dry Eye
Persistent dryness, scratchiness, and a burning sensation on your eyes are common symptoms of dry eye syndrome. These symptoms alone may be enough for your eye doctor to diagnose dry eye syndrome. Sometimes, he or she may want to measure the number of tears in your eyes. A thin strip of filter paper placed at the edge of the eye, called a Schirmer test, is one way of measuring this.
Some people with dry eyes also experience a “foreign body sensation” – the feeling that something is in the eye. And it may seem odd, but sometimes dry eye syndrome can cause watery eyes because the excessive dryness works to overstimulate the production of the watery component of your eye’s tears.
What Causes Dry Eyes?
In dry eye syndrome, the tear glands that moisturize the eye don’t produce enough tears, or the tears have a chemical composition that causes them to evaporate too quickly.
Dry eye syndrome has several causes. It occurs:
- As a part of the natural aging process, especially among women over age 40.
- As a side effect of many medications, such as antihistamines, antidepressants, certain blood pressure medicines, Parkinson’s medications and birth control pills.
- Because you live in a dry, dusty or windy climate with low humidity.
If your home or office has air conditioning or a dry heating system, that too can dry out your eyes. Another cause is insufficient blinking, such as when you’re staring at a computer screen all day.
Dry eyes are also associated with certain systemic diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, rosacea or Sjogren’s Syndrome (a triad of dry eyes, dry mouth, and rheumatoid arthritis or lupus).
Long-term contact lens wear, incomplete closure of the eyelids, eyelid disease, and a deficiency of the tear-producing glands are other causes.
Dry eye syndrome is more common in women, possibly due to hormone fluctuations. Recent research suggests that smoking, too, can increase your risk of dry eye syndrome. Dry eye has also been associated with incomplete lid closure following blepharoplasty – a popular cosmetic surgery to eliminate droopy eyelids.
Treatment for Dry Eye
Dry eye syndrome is an ongoing condition that treatments may be unable to cure. But the symptoms of dry eye – including dryness, scratchiness, and burning – can usually be successfully managed.
Your eyecare practitioner may recommend artificial tears, which are lubricating eye drops that may alleviate the dry, scratchy feeling and foreign body sensation of dry eye. Prescription eye drops for dry eye go one step further: they help increase your tear production. In some cases, your doctor may also prescribe a steroid for more immediate short-term relief.
Another option for dry eye treatment involves a tiny insert filled with a lubricating ingredient. The insert is placed just inside the lower eyelid, where it continuously releases lubrication throughout the day.
If you wear contact lenses, be aware that many artificial tears cannot be used during contact lens wear. You may need to remove your lenses before using the drops. Wait 15 minutes or longer (check the label) before reinserting them. For mild dry eye, contact lens rewetting drops may be sufficient to make your eyes feel better, but the effect is usually only temporary. Switching to another lens brand could also help.
Check the label, but better yet, check with your doctor before buying any over-the-counter eye drops. Your eye doctor will know which formulas are effective and long-lasting and which are not, as well as which eye drops will work with your contact lenses.
To reduce the effects of sun, wind, and dust on dry eyes, wear sunglasses when outdoors. Wraparound styles offer the best protection.
Indoors, an air cleaner can filter out dust and other particles from the air, while a humidifier adds moisture to air that’s too dry because of air conditioning or heating.
For more significant cases of dry eye, your eye doctor may recommend punctal plugs. These tiny devices are inserted in ducts in your lids to slow the drainage of tears away from your eyes, thereby keeping your eyes moister.
If your dry eye is caused by meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD), your doctor may recommend warm compresses and suggest an in-office procedure to clear the blocked glands and restore normal function.
Doctors sometimes also recommend special nutritional supplements containing certain essential fatty acids to decrease dry eye symptoms. Drinking more water may also offer some relief.
If medications are the cause of dry eyes, discontinuing the drug generally resolves the problem. But in this case, the benefits of the drug must be weighed against the side effect of dry eyes. Sometimes switching to a different type of medication alleviates the dry eye symptoms while keeping the needed treatment. In any case, never switch or discontinue your medications without consulting with your doctor first.
Treating any underlying eyelid disease, such as blepharitis, helps as well. This may call for antibiotic or steroid drops, plus frequent eyelid scrubs with an antibacterial shampoo.
What Is the OptiLight by Lumenis & How Can It Manage Your Dry Eye?
Dry eye disease is a widespread and common issue for up to 49 million Americans. This chronic condition can have a significant impact on your quality of life, causing a foreign body sensation in your eyes, pain, blurry vision, and dry or watery eyes. Untreated, it can even lead to further eye health complications.
Despite these constant detrimental effects on quality of life, many dry eye sufferers are not aware that they’re suffering from dry eye disease or that real treatments exist. Instead, they just live with the discomfort.
Our practice is dedicated to diagnosing and managing dry eye syndrome through the use of innovative and ergonomic technology. We use equipment like the Inflammadry (measures MMP9, a marker of inflammation in the tears), Tear Lab, and Oculus Keraograph 5M to give you the most accurate diagnosis possible.
Our modern dry eye solutions will help restore healthy and comfortable vision through minimally invasive processes. Through a holistic approach, we can ensure that you are receiving the best possible care, advice, and treatment possible.
We’re proud to offer OptiLight by Lumenis to our patients, specially designed for dry eye management.
What Is OptiLight by Lumenis?
OptiLight by Lumenis is a light-based, non-invasive treatment done in the area below the eyes to manage dry eyes. The first and only IPL FDA-approved for dry eye management.
The treatment is safe, gentle, and is backed by more than 20 clinical studies.
How Does It Work?
OptiLight uses precise pulses of light to reduce the inflammation that is typically associated with dry eye disease, improve tear break-up time, and increase meibomian gland functionality.
This application can significantly relieve dry eye indicators and has a multi-factorial effect, including:
- Increasing tear break-up time
- Reducing the amount of demodex mites and bacteria living around your eyes
- Eliminating blood vessels that contribute to inflammation
- Improving meibomian gland functionality
What to Expect
Before Your Treatment
There are a few things to keep in mind before coming in for your treatment with OptiLight. You will want to avoid:
- Sun exposure and tanning beds for at least 4 weeks prior to your treatment.
- Self-tanner for 2 weeks prior to treatment.
- Aspirin and ibuprofen for 1 week prior to treatment.
- Alcohol for 2 days prior to your treatment.
Allow yourself to have about 45 minutes to an hour available in your schedule for the treatment, and if possible, arrive without creams or makeup on the treatment area.
During Your Treatment
This treatment is fast and simple. During the treatment, your doctor will apply a coupling gel on the treatment area and cover your eyes with shields.
As light is applied to the skin, you may experience a warm sensation. The treatment is gentle with minimum discomfort. The treatment itself will only take 10–15 minutes.
OptiLight is often followed by meibomian gland expression [depending on the doctor].
After Your Treatment
After your appointment has finished, you can go back to your daily activities without the need for extended rest. Typically, you will experience redness around the treatment area—this is completely normal and should subside in a few hours. If you experience any swelling or puffiness, using a cold compress on the treatment area can help relieve some discomfort.
You will want to avoid direct sunlight after your treatment for 4–5 weeks after your treatment and use SPF30 or greater sunscreen if you are required to be outside. In some cases, you may also be prescribed a steroid drop or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory for use between treatment sessions.
Part of Your Custom Treatment Plan
A course of treatment typically includes 4 sessions spaced 2–4 weeks apart [depending on the doctor]. Treatment with the OptiLight will last about 15 minutes, and your entire session at our practice will only take around 45 minutes to an hour to complete. This ensures that you are able to return to your daily activities quickly while avoiding the feelings of discomfort that may be introduced from more invasive dry eye treatments.
During your appointment, you and your eye doctor will discuss how often you should be treated by OptiLight; some patients may require more frequent treatments than others. Typically, most patients will also require regular maintenance treatments every 6–12 months after the initial 4 treatments.
Along with the OptiLight, you may consider using some of the other dry eye solutions that our practice offers, including but not limited to:
- Artificial tears
- OcuSci Omega 3 supplements
- OcuSci warm compresses
- Punctal plugs
- Bandage soft contact lenses
- Scleral contact lenses
- Zest treatments
- Blephex lid treatment
- MIBOFLO in-office heat treatment
- Oral and topical antibiotics
Will the OptiLight by Lumenis Work for Me?
While OptiLight by Lumenis is an effective dry eye management solution, we want to make sure it’s right for you. We do not recommend this treatment if you:
- Suffer from aqueous deficiency dry eye (rather than evaporative dry eye or meibomian gland dysfunction)
- Have a history of keloid scarring
- Have severe scarring around your eyes
Ultimately, your doctor is the only person who can determine whether this option is right for you. During your next appointment, ask us if you are a good candidate for OptiLight by Lumenis.
You Don’t Have to Live With Dry Eye Anymore
Dry, irritated eyes can be managed with a new treatment that brings comfort and can restore quality of life. Visit your eye doctor to get an accurate diagnosis and a treatment plan tailored to your needs.
Call now for a consultation with Dr. Wong, Dr. Solum or Dr. McFarland.