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Dry Eye Treatment Services in Manassas, VA

Are you looking for dry, itchy eye causes? Or perhaps you think your watery, irritated eyes are a sign of allergies. You could be wrong. It may seem odd, but watery eyes could actually be a sign of dry eye syndrome. This medical condition has a host of symptoms that you may be attributing to other causes. By learning all about dry eyes, you and your eye care professional can decide if you really have this problem and how to treat it.

Learn the Definition of Dry Eye Syndrome

Dry eye syndrome, known medically as keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), is a condition in which your eyes don't produce enough tears to keep the eyes healthy and moist. This condition happens for a number of reasons. Without enough lubrication for your eyes or with low-quality tears, your eyes will be uncomfortable and irritated.

Other names for this condition include dysfunctional tear syndrome, evaporative tear deficiency, lacrimal keratoconjunctivitis and aqueous tear deficiency.

The Two Types of Dry Eye Syndrome

There are two main types of dry eyes:

  • One is known as aqueous tear-deficient dry eye, in which the tear ducts don't produce enough water to create an adequate amount of tears.
  • The second is evaporative dry eye, in which eyelid inflammation interferes with the eye's ability to produce the oily film that keeps tears from evaporating.

Dry eyes can last for short periods of time due to factors such as being around cigarette smoke, being in an airplane or looking at a computer screen for too long. People can also have chronic or long-term dry eyes that last for years due to medical conditions or other causes.

examination for dry eye syndrome manassas va

Dry eye syndrome is a very common eye problem in the United States, and the condition increases with age. Over 3.2 million women over the age of 50 suffer from dry eyes. There are 1.88 million men aged 50 and older who also have dry eye syndrome. All in all, nearly five million people living in the U.S. over the age of 50 are believed to have dry eyes.

Understand Why Your Tears Are Important

Your tears are important for good eye health and clear vision. Your tears continually bathe and nourish the eyes at a steady pace, washing away dust and particles that enter the eye. The lubrication also protects your eye from various infections. Without tears, you would not have good vision.

Tears are produced by the lacrimal gland and consist of proteins and vitamins. The tears have three layers.

  1. The water layer makes the surface of the eyes smooth.
  2. The fatty oils layer reduces evaporation of the tears.
  3. The mucus layer helps to distribute the tears evenly in the eye.

If your eyes don't remain wet enough, they become irritated and inflamed.

According to the National Institute of Health, the surface of the eye may become inflamed along with dry eyes. It can lead not only to pain, but also to ulcers and scars to the cornea and some loss of vision, if left untreated. Fortunately, permanent vision loss from dry eye is uncommon.

Recognize Dry Eye Symptoms

There are several dry eye symptoms that may affect one or both of your eyes. The signs of dry eyes are as follows:

  • Burning or stinging feeling in the eye
  • Very watery eyes
  • Stringy discharge or mucus in or around the eye
  • Scratchy feeling in eye
  • Redness in eye
  • Fatigued eyes
  • Painful eyes
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Blurred vision
  • Sandy feeling of something in your eye
  • Discomfort wearing contact lenses
  • Eye irritation from smoke
  • Excessive eye irritation due to wind, fans or forced heated air
  • Inability to cry when upset
  • Problems driving at night
  • Eyelids feeling heavy
  • Lower tolerance for reading, watching television or viewing a computer for long periods

Know the Causes of Dry Eyes

causes of dry eyes

Dry eye causes vary from person to person. For some people, the cause may be an underlying medical condition. For others, it may be environmental factors, such as dry air in the home, a windy day or higher elevations. For many people, simple aging is the reason for having dry eyes.

Hormonal Changes

One of the main causes of dry eye syndrome in women is hormonal changes that affect tear production. This is why women outnumber men in having dry eye syndrome. The hormonal change a woman undergoes during menopause is one of the main reasons so many women suffer from dry eyes. The hormonal changes of pregnancy and menstruation can also lead to dry eyes in some women.

Medical Conditions

Autoimmune diseases, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma and Sjogren's syndrome may affect the tear ducts and result in reduced tear production. Other conditions that may cause dry eyes include allergies, diabetes, thyroid disorders and herpes zoster.

Certain eye diseases, such as chronic conjunctivitis or pink eye, have many causes and can lead to dry eye syndrome. Keratitis is an eye condition in which your eyes don't close completely as you sleep, leading to moisture loss. Eyelid diseases such as entropion – where eyelids turn in – and ectropion – the turning out of eyelids – also may lead to drying of the eyes.

There are also skin diseases such as rosacea and blepharitis, or inflammation of the eye, that affect the eyelids and lead to dry near eyes. Demodex blepharitis is an eye condition caused by mites. An eyelid scrub coupled with tea tree oil is a common demodex treatment.

Other dry eye causes are tear gland damage, or meibomian gland clogging. The meibomian glands are glands along the edge of eyelids.

A deficiency of vitamin A, a nutrient important for the eye health, can also cause dry eyes. Although this rarely happens in the United States, this cause is common in developing countries.

Medications

The side effects of many medications, both prescription and over-the-counter (OTC), may lead to reduced tear production, resulting in dry eyes. This list of drugs includes the following:

  • Antihistamines
  • Antidepressants
  • Anti-anxiety drugs
  • Birth control pills
  • Nasal decongestants
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Beta-blockers
  • Diuretics
  • Sleeping pills
  • Pain relievers
  • Tranquilizers

Contacts and Eye Surgeries

You may also be more prone to dry eye syndrome if you're a long-term contact lens wearer or if you had laser eye surgery, such as LASIK or similar refractive surgeries, to correct vision. Some cosmetic surgeries, like an eyelid lift, may also lead to dry eyes if the procedure widens the eyelids too much.

Impact of the Environment

climate affects dry eyes

There are many environmental factors that lead to temporary or chronic dry eyes. You are more likely to suffer from dry eyes if the climate or air is dry or windy. Exposure to cigarette smoke, forced heated air, air conditioning, fans and blow dryers can also dry the eyes. All of these conditions increase evaporation of the moisture in your eyes.

Diagnose Dry Eyes Syndrome

It's time to see an eye care specialist if your dry eye symptoms continue or you have prolonged redness, irritation or pain. Your ophthalmologist will usually diagnose dry eyes during a physical examination of your eyes.

In some instances, your doctor may use diagnostic tools. There is a test that measures the rate of tear production and a dye test that places drops in the eyes to determine how fast dry spots appear on the eye. For most people, dry eye syndrome is diagnosed based on symptoms and a visual exam of the eyes.

Treat Dry Eye With Conventional Medicine

Dry eye treatment depends on the cause. If you have medical conditions that lead to dry eyes, your treatment may begin with treating the underlying disease. This often remedies the dry eye problem.

For those taking medications that result in dry eyes, your dry eye treatment options are to accept the dry eyes if your medication, such as beta-blockers to treat hypertension, keeps you healthy. Another option is to talk with your primary care doctor and discuss switching to medications that won't dry out your eyes.

Using OTC Eye Drops

For people with occasional or chronic dry eyes, the first course of dry eye treatment is to reduce or eliminate the symptoms of dry eyes. This means using OTC drops that you can purchase at any drug store. These drops, known as artificial tears, lubricate the eyes. By using these drops regularly, you can treat chronic dry eyes. You need to use these drops as often as needed. Some people use drops several times a day, while others use them only once a day. It's also often necessary to use drops even when your eyes feel fine.

preservative free eye drops

For many people, artificial tears are the only treatment needed for dry eyes. However, it's important to find the right type of OTC drops for your needs. Many brands of artificial tears have preservatives in them to prolong the efficacy of the drops. If you need to use eye drops with preservatives more frequently than four times per day, preservative-free eye drops are better for your eyes. Be certain to read the label of any lubricating drop you want to purchase.

Artificial tears come in the form of drops, gels and ointments. The gels and ointments provide longer-lasting relief from symptoms. These products coat the eyes because they are thicker in consistency, and this can make vision a little blurry. Some doctors suggest only using gels or ointment at night before bed. The drops don't typically cause any vision problems.

With so many products on the market, it can take you some trial and error to find the best lubricating eye drops, gel or ointment for your needs. When looking for OTC eye drops, avoid drops designed to reduce redness in eyes. These types of drops cause irritation in long-term users.

Prescription Eye Drops

If OTC artificial tears aren't working for you, your eye doctor may prescribe cyclosporine. This is an anti-inflammatory medication that is the only prescription drug to treat dry eyes. This drug increases tear production and alleviates the symptoms of dry eyes. You have to use the drug twice daily for three to six months before you see signs of dry eye relief. A short-term course of corticosteroid eye drops is sometimes used for severe dry eyes.

In need of prescription eye drops for the management of dry eyes? Schedule an appointment with Prince William Eye Associates today!

Eye Plugs

Another method for treating dry eyes is to conserve your own tears. Tears drain out of the eye through small pathways or drainage holes. Drainage holes are the tiny openings at the inner corners of each eyelid. These circular holes allow tears to drain out into your nose – this is the reason your nose runs whenever you cry.

Using eye plugs for dry eyes is an effective way to retain the moisture in your eyes. An eye doctor may decide to temporarily or permanently close these holes or channels to help you to conserve your tears and to make artificial tears last longer.

Punctal plugs for dry eyes, also called lacrimal plugs, are a temporary and reversible treatment for dry eyes. The plugs are made of collagen or silicone. The eye doctor inserts the plugs into the drainage holes. Inserts, which are filled with lubricating ingredients, can be placed within your lower eyelid, to continuously prevent dry eyes. The punctal plugs procedure is painless, and most people don't feel the plugs afterwards.

Have serious dry eye and feel you may need punctal plugs? Please contact Prince William Eye Associates to schedule an appointment in our office!

For severe dry eyes, your eye doctor may permanently close the drainage holes. Permanent closures require an eye operation called punctal cautery. This procedure uses heat to close up the holes. Once the holes are sealed, your eyes can keep more moisture, similar to how eye plugs work.

Other Treatment Methods for Dry Eyes

Because a high percentage of dry eye causes stem from insufficient oil or meibum being secreted from the meibomian glands, expressing the meibomian glands in these cases can help. An in-office dry eye treatment, known as the LipiFlow Thermal Pulsation System (TearScience) combines the benefits of warm compress therapy and meibomian gland expression to treat dry eyes.

Intense Pulsed Light, or IPL, is another dry eye treatment for certain cases of dry eyes.

Natural Remedies and Alternative Medicine for Dry Eyes

There are several natural remedies that have anecdotal evidence they work to relieve dry eye syndrome. One supplement to try is fatty acids. By taking a daily dose of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid supplements, you may be able to reduce the symptoms of dry eyes. You can also add more foods to your diet that are rich in omega fatty acids. By eating more salmon, sardines, anchovies, flaxseed and vegetable oils, you give your body the fatty acids it needs for optimal health.

There are castor oil eye drops on the market that reduce evaporation of your tears and help some people with dry eyes. There are also people who relieve dry eye symptoms by frequently washing their eyelids with water and a gentle soap or using warm compresses.

Acupuncture is another treatment method to consider trying. This ancient Chinese therapy helps some people alleviate dry eyes.

Prevent Dry Eyes

It's a good idea to notice when you have the symptoms of dry eyes. People experience dry eyes in different situations, and the best way to avoid dry eyes is to avoid these situations.

There are several lifestyle changes you can make to prevent dry eyes or reduce the severity of the symptoms. Use the following tips to help prevent dry eyes:

  • Wear wraparound eyeglasses or sunglasses or add side or top shields to your glasses to reduce evaporation of tears when outdoors.
  • Use an indoor air filter to remove dust and other particles that can dry out eyes.
  • Use a humidifier in your home, especially during winter, to add more moisture to the air.
  • Reduce the time you wear contact lenses or switch to another type of lenses.
  • Stop using contact lenses and wear only eyeglasses.
  • Rest your eyes for a few minutes when reading, doing computer work or performing other visual tasks.
  • Blink frequently throughout the day to distribute your tears more evenly.
  • Stop smoking if you do, or stay away from secondhand smoke if you don't.
  • Use eye drops while in an airplane to prevent dry eye.
  • Don't let air from air conditioners or fans blow directly into your eyes.
  • Point a blow dryer nozzle away from your face.
  • Wear protective eyewear in very dry climates such as in deserts and at high altitudes.
  • Move your computer screen to below eye level. Above eye level, you widen your eyes to see, and this dries out your eyes.

There you have it. Everything you always wanted to know about dry eyes – causes, symptoms, treatments, natural remedies and how some people can prevent dry eyes entirely. Whether you have occasional dry eyes or chronic dry eyes, there are plenty of ways to lessen the symptoms and get comfortable, moist eyes.

For more information about dry eyes or to schedule an appointment at Prince William Eye Associates, call us at 703-361-6151 or contact us today .

 
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