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Dry eye syndrome is the most common reason that patients visit an eye doctor. It is estimated more than 23 million people over the age of 20 suffer from chronic dry eye and if left untreated, it often becomes so uncomfortable that patients must make lifestyle adjustments. Dry eye can also impact one’s vision and eye health if left untreated. Both young and old can be affected, but the chances of getting dry eye increase with age.

Though there are dozens of underlying factors for dryness, most fall into one of these two categories.

  1. Increased tear evaporation: The most common cause of dry eye is a condition called Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD), which causes your tears to evaporate more quickly. Just as oil floats on water, the Meibomian glands secrete an oily substance that floats on the surface of your tears. This oily coating slows down the evaporation rate of the tears. MGD results in secretions that are too thick and cannot be expressed or secretions of poor quality.
  1. Decreased tear production: Our natural tears are spread across the surface of the eye with every blink to keep the cornea smooth, moist and clear. The corneal surface is responsible for about 75% of the overall focusing power of the eye. This explains why most vision correction procedures aim to make favorable changes in the surface of the cornea. This also explains why a dry cornea, no longer smooth and moist, can blur your vision. If you have ever scratched your cornea, the pain is memorable. The cornea is full of nerve endings and is one of the most sensitive parts of the body. This is why dry eye can be so uncomfortable.

What is Dry Eye?

Dry eye is a long-term chronic disease that causes discomfort and may compromise vision if left untreated. The condition occurs when the eyes do not produce enough tears or the appropriate quality of tears to keep the eyes lubricated, healthy and comfortable. The eyes produce tears either at a slow, steady pace or they produce large quantities of tears due to irritation or crying. Excessive tearing from dry eye may sound counterintuitive, but it is the eye’s response to discomfort. If the tears do not keep the eye wet enough, the eye becomes irritated and prompts the gland to make more tears.

Types of Dry Eye

  • Evaporative Dry Eye is caused by blockage in the Meibomian glands that create the lipid (oil) layer of the tear film and are located in the eyelids. This condition of obstructed glands is known as Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD). When the glands aren’t working properly, they do not produce enough tear film oil and the tears, which lubricate and keep the eyes comfortable, evaporate too quickly. An insufficient oil layer can cause tears to evaporate four to six times faster. 
  • Aqueous Deficient Dry Eye occurs when the lacrimal glands do not create a sufficient amount of aqueous (water) to keep the eyes moist. Traditional treatments such as topical eye drops may help alleviate symptoms from this form of dry eye.

Symptoms of Dry Eye

Symptoms of dry eye may include:

  • Redness
  • Itching
  • Heavy, achy eyes
  • Blurriness
  • Grittiness
  • Light sensitivity
  • Tearing

Dry Eye Treatment & Diagnosis

Treatment for dry eye is available for most cases and is critical if you are considering a vision correction procedure. Dry eye can negatively impact the results of your surgery and cause:

  • Inaccurate measurements when you are evaluated for prescription eyewear (glasses and contacts), cataract surgery, or vision correction.
  • Difficulties with healing if not corrected before surgery.
  • Wearing contact lenses to be almost impossible.

Chesapeake Eye Care and Laser Center is proud to be the first practice in our local community to offer patients a new, revolutionary treatment for dry eyes. LipiFlow is an exciting breakthrough technology that treats the root cause of Evaporative Dry Eye. It provides up to 12 months of symptom relief and takes less than 15 minutes to perform in our office.

Other Treatment Options:

  • Special tests, such a staining technique (cells of the cornea will stain when dried) and Schirmer's test are used to measure tear production and evaluate dry eyes.
  • Types of omega 3 fatty acids, punctal plugs, artificial tears and artificial tear gel treatments have also improved dry eye.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation for vision correction, or to simply treat your dry eye symptoms.

Study Shows Dry Eye Improvement

As reported in Cornea, 105 patients with dry eye disease were studied for 12 weeks.  Half of the patients received 12 weeks of omega-3 fatty acids (PRN Dry Eye Omega Benefits) while the “placebo” half received safflower oil. The group that received the omega-3 fatty acids showed an improvement in multiple parameters related to assessing dry eye:

  • Tear osmolarity
  • Tear break-up time (TBUT)
  • Ocular Surface Disease Index (OSDI)
  • MMP-9
  • Corneal Staining
  • Schirmer test
  • Omega 3 index

Many improvements presented as early as six weeks, with patients having decreased symptoms of dry eye, including burning, tearing and redness.

About Dry Eye Omega Benefits (PRN)

The actual supplement used for the study is manufactured by PRN (Physician Recommended Nutriceuticals).  Dry Eye Omega Benefits provides a unique “re-esterified” combination of EPA and DHA fatty acids that may add to the bioavailability of the fatty acids.

We are impressed with the results of the “re-esterified” omega 3 supplements and believe the chemical composition is superior to other omega 3 supplements in the ability to improve the tear film and help dry eyes.  

Moreover, the “re-esterified” omega 3 supplements may have numerous benefits when taken before and after refractive eye surgery or cataract surgery.