Dry eyes is a common condition that has multiple causes. From allergies to conditions like conjunctivitis and blepharitis, the common symptoms of itching, grittiness, and blurred vision can range from mildly inconvenient to life-altering. When it comes to the condition known as dry eye syndrome, the underlying cause is a lack of natural lubrication—tears.
In some cases, the eyes fail to form enough tears. In others, the tears that form are of poor quality. There are many reasons people develop dry eyes. Besides certain diagnosed conditions, environmental factors, lifestyle choices, age, and some medications can impact the eye’s ability to effectively lubricate. Other conditions that might mimic some of the symptoms of dry eye syndrome include corneal abrasion, chalazion, blepharitis, allergies, and different forms of conjunctivitis.
How Do I Know if I Need to Find a Dry Eye Doctor Near Me?
While dry eyes might be a transient condition that you can self-treat with over-the-counter eye drops from a drug store, if the symptoms worsen or continue for more than a few days then you’re likely to need more specialized help—you need a dry eye doctor. This is a clinical professional who provides assessment, diagnosis, and treatment for the condition. If you don’t already have a trusted ophthalmologist, you might begin your search online by entering “dry eye specialist near me”.
Reasons you might need to seek treatment for dry eyes include long-term or exacerbation of some or many of the following symptoms:
- Stinging, burning, itchy eyes
- Your eyes feel gritty
- Excessive tearing (watery eyes)
- Blurred vision
- Photophobia (sensitivity to light)
- Tired eyes
- Difficulty wearing contact lenses
- Problems with vision when driving at night
- Mucus in or around the eyes
- Crusts forming around or in the corners of the eyes
These symptoms tend to occur in both eyes. However, in the case of infection or a scratch to the cornea you might have a problem in only one eye. However it affects you, if the problem continues for an extended period then it’s wise to seek professional assistance.
What Happens During Dry Eye Treatment?
When you visit a dry eye specialist the first thing they will do is take a detailed history. This will include questions such as:
- When did the problem start?
- Have you had a similar issue in the past?
- Do you spend a lot of time looking at a computer screen?
- Do you wear contact lenses?
- Was there a single incident that started the problem (e.g. did you get something in your eye?)
- Is it worse when you’re outside in the wind?
- Does it occur at certain times of the day/certain times of the year?
- Is there any history of dry eye syndrome in your immediate family?
- Do you take any regular medication?
- Have you self-medicated or used any eye drops?
After this, they will carry out a detailed examination of both eyes. This might include taking samples of any mucus or crusty deposits to be sent off for analysis. They might also assess your scalp, jaw, and lymph nodes in your neck.
Depending on the diagnosis, treatment for the cause of your dry eyes will vary. For a bacterial condition, such as blepharitis or bacterial conjunctivitis, the treatment might include antibiotic eye drops or ointment, along with careful and regular cleansing. Your eye doctor will discuss with you how to carry this out at home.
Dry eyes that stem from an allergy might be treated with eye drops or other medication to relieve the symptoms (antihistamines) and mechanical alterations, such as avoiding the cause of the allergy if possible, changing contact lens type, or reverting to glasses for a while.
If the cornea has become injured from a tiny foreign object (causing a scratch—a condition called a corneal abrasion) you may be prescribed antibiotic eye drops for a few days, have to wear an eye patch, or even have a special contact lens inserted to protect the cornea while it heals.
Dry eye syndrome—where the eyes don’t produce enough tears or tears that aren’t of the normal chemical makeup—is a long-term condition with no specific cure. Instead, a dry eye doctor has a range of treatments to ease the condition. This ranges from using eye drops, known as artificial tears, plugs to block the tear drain, or even laser treatment or minor surgery to permanently seal the eye’s natural drainage channel so you make the best use of the tears you do produce.
How Does WBEC Provide the Best Dry Eye Treatment in Boca Raton?
The West Boca Eye Center is a facility of clinical excellence that’s headed by one of the leading eye doctors in the country—Brent Bellotte MD. Recognized around the world for his expertise in eye surgery, diagnosis, and treatments, he leads a team that provides the very latest solutions to bring their patients their best possible vision.
When it comes to dry eyes, the sheer magnitude of conditions that cause similar symptoms requires specialist dry eye treatment. Boca Raton and South Florida residents are privileged to have this right on their doorstep, and many others travel to take advantage of Dr. Bellotte’s expertise.
The first stage of reducing or eliminating the symptoms of all dry eye and allergy conditions is that of a quick and accurate diagnosis. Once this is done, the correct treatment can be instigated to bring quick relief.
With a long-term condition, such as dry eye syndrome, it’s crucial to have the latest options available. The WBEC is an academic-grade facility, meaning that every aspect of treatment can be carried out on-site. In addition, Brent Bellotte plays a pivotal role in bringing the very latest, proven treatments to his patients—very often being able to offer cutting-edge solutions that might not be available elsewhere.
While there is, currently, no definitive cure for dry eye syndrome, there are many different treatments available. Because the cause is the eye’s inability to form enough or the right quality of tears, primary treatments focus on providing the eye with adequate lubrication and removing or avoiding triggers.
A dry eye specialist will follow a stepwise approach that includes:
- Considering mechanical factors: changing to eyeglasses rather than contact lenses or using a different type of contact lens, staying out of windy and dusty conditions, reducing time spent looking at a computer screen, etc.
- Using eye drops known as artificial tears
- Ointments to use at night time
If these fail to control the symptoms there are other options available:
- Placing inserts beneath the eyelids that gradually release artificial tears
- Using plugs (temporary or permanent) that block the punctum—the drain through which tears drain. This means that even though your eyes are not producing many tears, they can take advantage of the ones you do.
- Laser treatment or a surgical procedure to permanently block the punctum.
Dry eye, sometimes called dry eye syndrome or chronic dry eye, is a long-term condition where the eyes fail to produce enough or good quality natural tears that lubricate the surface of the eyes. Symptoms of dry eye include:
- Irritation to the eye—itching, a feeling of grittiness, feeling sore.
- Blurred vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Excessive watering
The latter is a common reaction to not producing the amount of tears necessary to effectively lubricate the eyes.
There is no cure for dry eye, Treatment consists of managing the condition and, most usually, using artificial tears in the form of drops and/or ointment.
Historically, those who suffered from dry eyes often gave up wearing contacts as they exacerbated the condition. While this is still true to some extent, advancement in technology has brought contact lenses made of different materials that are more suitable—namely silicone hydrogel materials with high oxygen transmissibility.
They work because one of the main reasons contact lens wearers might suffer from dry eyes is because they reduce the amount of oxygen that reaches the cornea—and oxygen is essential for the eye to produce tears.
In addition to changing the lenses, altering your contact lens management may also help. This includes:
- Changing the cleaning and storage solutions to one that’s preservative-free or hydrogen peroxide often helps.
- Switching to daily disposable lenses
- Going without lenses for a few hours each day (to allow more oxygen exposure)
- Use new contact lens solution every day
Practicing good hygiene when handling, inserting, and removing your lenses is essential. You might also consider your diet—research has shown that a diet high in Omega-3 fatty acids is beneficial for dry eyes.
There is no definitive cure for dry eyes (often called dry eye syndrome). However, with careful management, some lifestyle changes, and—most importantly—partnering with an ophthalmologist who’s a dry eye specialist—it’s possible to dramatically reduce what can be, in severe cases, a life-altering condition.
Your dry eye doctor will advise as to the best treatment. This often involves the use of eye drops (artificial tears), ointments, or, if these fail to work, surgical options such as laser treatment or the insertion of plugs beneath the eyelids that gradually release tears.
Many lifestyle changes will lessen the symptoms of dry eyes.
- Practice good eye hygiene
- Don’t spend too long looking at computer screens and position it either at eye level or slightly below
- Consider changing from contacts to glasses or using lenses made from different materials
- If you wear contacts, take them out for a few hours per day
- Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air in your home/place of work
- Reduce alcohol intake
- Stop smoking
- Avoid smoky, dusty environments
- Avoid windy conditions or direct airflow
- Consider wearing wrap-around sunglasses to protect the eyes from the elements when outside
- Include plenty of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet (research has shown this can help with dry eye symptoms)
- Talk to your healthcare provider about any regular medication you take. They might be able to prescribe an alternative if it’s deemed to contribute to dry eye symptoms
Dry eyes are caused by the eyes not forming enough, or good enough quality, tears. Risk factors for developing dry eye syndrome include:
- Being over the age of 50
- Spending a lot of time on a computer
- Wearing contact lenses
- Suffering from certain conditions, such as lupus or blepharitis
- Being a smoker
- Drinking excessive alcohol
- Spending a lot of time in a heated or air-conditioned environment
- Taking certain medications (some antidepressants or those to lower blood pressure)
The symptoms of dry eye include:
- Itching and irritation
- Redness and pain
- The feeling of something being in the eye (grittiness)
- Blurred vision
- Tired eyes
- Stringy mucus in or around the eye
- Crusting around the lids
- Sensitivity to light
- Excessive watering