Dry eye syndrome is a multifactorial disease that is generally caused by an imbalance of the tear film that acts as a protective barrier for the front of the eye. There are two primary contributors to tear film imbalance. First, patients may have decreased production of tears. Much more commonly, and widely accepted as the leading cause of dry eye, is due to blockages of small glands in the upper and lower eyelids called meibomian glands. These glands, when healthy, produce oils (or lipids) that compose the outermost layer of the tear film and prevent the middle water layer of the eyes from evaporating. When the meibomian glands have been blocked or are compromised, the surface of the eye becomes more easily exposed and dry eye symptoms are noticed by the patient.
These symptoms can range from a sandy, gritty feeling, foreign body sensation, irritation and redness, blurry vision – and believe it or not, watery eyes!
Dry eye syndrome can also be brought on as a side effect of many different medications or systemic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus erythematosus, and other similar diseases. It may also be caused by heat (thermal) or chemical burns.
Dry eye syndrome can be diagnosed by your eye doctor using a slit lamp (biomicroscope) to evaluate the ocular surface and function of the meibomian glands, as well as dyes to help evaluate the clear corneal surface.
There are many treatment options for dry eye, though most are aimed at relief of symptoms. These may include lubricating artificial tears and gel drops, lubricating ointments, warm compresses, punctal plugs, and medications both topical (Restasis, Xiidra and Cequa) as well as oral (doxycycline).
One treatment on the market actually treats the underlying cause of dry eye syndrome – MGD. This treatment is called Lipiflow, and is a quick, in-office procedure that heats the eyelids from the inside while massaging them from the outside, expelling the dysfunctional meibomian glands of their contents and rejuvenating them for more effective and healthy release of lipids onto the ocular surface.
Oakland Ophthalmic Surgery is one of the few practices in Oakland County to offer this procedure. Learn more about Lipiflow here.