Dry eye disease, more broadly called ocular surface disease, affects millions of Americans. Ocular surface diseases cause a variety of issues for patients ranging from mild discomfort to sight-threatening dryness of the surface of the eye.
Because this condition is often progressive, it is vital to treat Dry Eye Disease as early as possible and have regular doctor visits to ensure complications or damage to the eye or vision do not occur.
Given the widespread nature of these conditions, Virginia Eye Institute (VEI) has developed an Ocular Surface Disease Center for Excellence, certified by TearLab, an industry leader in the treatment of ocular surface disease.
The staff at VEI is dedicated to providing the highest quality dry eye care, tailoring care to each individual patient using today’s most current techniques and treatments.
What is Ocular Surface Disease?
Some people do not produce enough tears to keep the eyes wet and comfortable. Others have adequate tear production, but the tears are of poor quality, so they cannot keep the eyes adequately lubricated. Common symptoms of ocular surface disease include stinging, burning, scratchiness, production of stringy mucus, sensitivity to wind, and blurred or fluctuating vision. Dry eyes can also make it difficult to wear contact lenses.
Surprisingly, ocular surface disease is also a common cause of increased tearing. Since basic tear secretion is below normal, excess tears are produced by the lacrimal gland in response to the dryness.
What Causes Ocular Surface Disease?
Ocular surface disease is most commonly associated with poor tear health or low tear production. Occasionally, it can be caused by abnormalities of the eyelids or the nerves that detect sensation on the surface of the eye.
The most common cause of poor tear health is meibomian gland dysfunction. The meibomian glands produce the lipid layer of the tear film, which prevents the premature evaporation of tears. The glands can become dysfunctional and inflamed with age, leading to loss of this vital lipid layer. This may lead to blurred vision, eye pain, redness, and in some cases swollen eyelids.
Tear production is known to decrease with age however decreased tear production can occur for several reasons. Dry eyes symptoms are more common in women, especially after the age of menopause, but they can occur at any age in both men and women. The environment may play a role in evaporation, with drier environments leading to more discomfort. Some patients notice certain activities, such as reading or driving, make their symptoms worse.
Dry eye can also be associated with Sjogren’s syndrome, other autoimmune diseases, medications, and certain eye diseases.
How is Dry Eye Diagnosed?
Our ophthalmologists at VEI are able to diagnose ocular surface disease during an eye examination. Your history, the appearance of the eyes, and results from non-invasive, in-office testing – such as tear osmolarity, meibomian gland imaging, and testing for inflammatory markers in the tears – can help determine the root cause of your symptoms and guide recommendations for treatment.
How is Dry Eye Treated?
The doctors at the Virginia Eye Institute have a wide variety of treatment options at their disposal when treating your ocular surface disease. These may include recommendations for artificial tears and lid hygiene regimens, to occlusion of the tear drainage system to help increase the effectiveness of your tears, to medications that increase tear production and in-office treatments, such as the LipiFlow® Thermal Pulsation System, which may reduce the need for artificial tears and other prescription dry eye treatments by attending to the cause of evaporative dry eye symptoms, the meibomian glands.
For severe cases of ocular surface disease, we are also experienced in the use of autologous serum tears, scleral contact lenses, and other advanced treatment options.
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We invite you to call and learn more about dry eye treatments. Call 804.287.2020 now to schedule your consultation with one of our surgeons and learn about your options to treat dry eye.