Silicon Valley Eye Physicians

Dry Eye Syndrome: An Overview of the Condition and Its Treatment Options 

Dry eyes are more than an annoyance. Anyone who suffers from chronic dryness knows that virtually every aspect of your life can suffer.

The doctors at Silicon Valley Eye Physicians use advanced diagnostics to pinpoint the cause of dry eyes. Today, treatment is more effective than ever before.

What are some signs that I might have dry eye?

Common Symptoms

Red Eyes

Eyes that appear red and irritated are a very common sign of dry eyes.

Foreign Body Sensation

You might have a gritty sensation or think an eyelash is stuck in your eye.

Excess Tearing

Dry eyes often produce too many tears, yet they are still not lubricated.

A Closer Look at Symptoms

Some less common symptoms of dry eye also include:

  • Excess mucous production from the eye
  • Light sensitivity
  • Difficulty wearing contacts comfortably
  • Watery eyes

If symptoms of dry eye are persistent and noticeable enough to affect your everyday life, such as making it difficult to drive or meet your daily obligations, then it may be time to schedule an appointment with an eye doctor.

Show me an example of a treatment option...

Treatment with Punctal Plugs

Illustration of punctal plugs

Am I at higher risk of developing dry eye syndrome?

Causes & Risk Factors

There are many potential causes of dry eye. There is evidence that for some, the problem may be hereditary, making those with family members who suffer from dry eye more likely to develop it themselves at some point in their lives. However, there are plenty of other causes of dry eye syndrome as well. For example, those with autoimmune diseases and eyelid abnormalities face a higher risk. Taking certain prescription medications can also lead to dry eye.

Other potential causes of dry eye include:

  • Tear gland failure
  • Neurological conditions
  • Reduced tear production due to aging

Environmental factors like smoky conditions, windy conditions, and dry climates can also lead to dry eye.

Here's how these risk factors directly cause dry eyes...

3 Causes of Dry Eye

Reduced Tear Production

Certain health conditions and medications can affect your lacrimal glands, lowering the amount of tears you are able to produce.

Poor Tear Quality

Eyelid conditions like blepharitis and rosacea cause the glands that produce the oil found in tears to malfunction, causing tears to evaporate too quickly.

Less Blinking

Certain tasks like excessive computer use, staring at your mobile device, or driving for extended periods of time can reduce your blink rate, inhibiting tear distribution.

Dry eye is very common among Americans...

Millions Struggle with Dry Eye Symptoms

Fortunately, the condition is easily diagnosed at our Sunnyvale and Santa Clara optometrist's office...

Offering Some of the Most Advanced Diagnostic Tools

Both our Sunnyvale and Santa Clara offices are equipped with some of the most advanced diagnostic tools in the entire Bay Area.

During your exam, our doctors will perform a series of tests including:

  • LipiScan™ exams
  • Tear breakup
  • Gland expression

Our practice also uses InflammaDry®, a highly accurate test that allows us to quickly interpret your results and recommend the appropriate treatment. In most cases, this diagnosis can be completed within 10 minutes, allowing you to receive results quickly and accurately. 

More Information About Dry Eye Testing

At Silicon Valley Eye Physicians, we provide our patients with advanced treatment and care for a variety of vision and eye health matters. Dry eye is one of the most common types of complaints from many of those patients. Dry eye testing is completed at our office using state-of-the-art equipment and techniques to provide our doctors with the very best understanding of what is causing your dry eyes. 

If you are experiencing itchy or burning eyes, we can perform testing and treatment for dry eye all under one roof.

What Is Dry Eye Syndrome Testing?

Dry eye syndrome testing involves lab testing that specialists can use to better understand the underlying cause of dry eyes. It allows for our team to better understand what is happening and why so we can create an effective dry eye treatment plan for you. When you visit Silicon Valley Eye Physicians, we’ll talk to you about your symptoms and then work through a series of tests that can provide us with incredible insight into what’s happening so we can work towards improving your symptoms.

These are some of the tests we’ll use to evaluate your dry eye syndrome:

Tear Break Up Time (TBUT)

TBUT is a test that helps us to understand how long it takes for tear film to break up on the eyes. Specifically, it creates a measurement to show the quality of the protective lipid layer as well as the effect of evaporation. When a low TBUT is found, this leaves the eyes prone to evaporative conditions and dry eyes.

Schirmer’s Testing

This test involves the use of special cellulose paper that measures the amount of tear production by the lacrimal and accessory lacrimal glands. While it doesn’t tell us what caused the dry eye, it can offer insight into treatment options.

Lissamine Green Stain

Lissamine green stain is a safe-to-use dye that stains the membrane-damaged or devitalized cells located on the surface of the eye. What makes it unique is that it doesn’t cause discoloration on the normal, healthy surfaces of your eye. This gives us a very accurate and clear idea of where eye disease is present.

Interferometry

Interferometry is a test that helps us understand the dynamics of the tear film. It allows for assessing the lipid and aqueous layers within the tear film. Specifically, interferometry focuses on precorneal tear film.

Tear Meniscus Measurement

Located in the lower eyelid is a reservoir that holds tears called the tear meniscus. When you blink, it spreads the tears across the ocular surface to improve your vision. This also helps to improve eye comfort and cleans the eye. This measurement process allows us to determine the depth of this reservoir now, at the start of treatment, and later as your treatment progresses.

Lipid Secretion Assessment

The Meibomian glands in the eyelids create the lipid layer of tear film. This test allows us to gently express tears from this area to see how well they are being produced, how much is being produced, and the oils found within the gland.

Ocular Surface Photography

A key part of the process of tracking your improvement is the use of this type of photography. We’ll take pictures of your eyes at the start of treatment and later using high-tech equipment.

Meibography

This test allows us to look at the oil glands using a special type of photography called IR spectral photography. It gives us pictures of the entire gland we can use for diagnostics and treatment plans.

We are one of the only practices in Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, and the surrounding Bay Area equipped with these innovative diagnostic tools, and we perform an initial scanning for dry eye on a complimentary basis during each routine eye exam.Your test results will allow us to determine which treatment option suits you best. 

TearScienceĀ® LipiScanā„¢
During your visit, we will perform a series of tests including a TearScience® LipiScan™ exam.

Can I control my dry eye symptoms?

You Can Often Relieve Dry Eye By:

Protecting Your Eyes

Resting your eyes periodically and wearing sunglasses whenever you go outdoors can protect your eyes from irritation.

Increasing Moisture

You can maintain moisture by adding drops to provide lubrication or plugging the punctal ducts to prevent tears from draining.

Addressing Inflammation

Inflammation can reduce tear production. Regularly using warm compresses and eyelid cleaners or even massaging your eyelids can sometimes alleviate this problem. 

Undergoing Professional Treatment

Prescription eye drops can increase tear production and moisture. In severe cases, your doctor can provide treatment to clear blocked glands.

Treatment Can Protect Your Eyes

"Dry eyes can be a chronic condition, but your optometrist can prescribe treatment to keep your eyes healthy and comfortable and to prevent your vision from being affected." American Optometric Association

Your Treatment Options

Our team offers comprehensive dry eye treatment options that can improve your symptoms, reduce your discomfort, and help you to have the best vision possible. We offer several treatment options to fit every patient's needs, including

  • Medications
  • At-Home Treatments
  • In-Office Treatments

During your next routine eye exam, discuss your concerns with one of our eye care specialists to get the treatment you need. 

Your treatment will be based on the severity of your condition...

We Typically Start with Medications

Cyclosporine A 0.5%

These are the only eye drops approved by the FDA for dry eye treatment. To reduce inflammation, we recommend that these drops are used twice a day for up to six months.

Corticosteriods

Corticosteroid drops and ointments can reduce the symptoms of dry eye, particularly the inflammation seen in ocular surface disease.

Antibiotic Drops & Ointments

For those suffering from blepharitis or Meibomian gland dysfunction, antibiotic drops and ointments can kill the bacteria causing your dry eye symptoms.

Oral Antibiotics

These medications also kill bacteria present on the glands and eyelid. Consequently, antibiotics can be helpful for those suffering from rosacea.

How do these treatments work?

The Goal Is to Restore Moisture

For more severe cases we may recommend in-office treatment...

We Can Perform a Variety of Procedures:

LipiFlow

This treatment option is beneficial to those who suffer from Meibomian gland disease. Heat is applied to the inner eyes with gentle pressure to release the lipids from the glands and ease your symptoms.

Amniotic Membrane Therapy

By using tissue harvested from the placenta, you can enjoy decreased discomfort, reduced risk of scarring, a shorter healing process, and less inflammation.

Punctal Occlusion

Semi-permanent plugs can be placed to reduce the normal drainage of tears, helping to build up a larger reservoir and allowing the eyes to remain moist and comfortable. The procedure only takes a few minutes to perform.
 

Scleral Lens Therapy

This therapy can improve comfort and restore vision in patients with severe ocular surface disease. The lens is capable of holding a small reservoir of fluid, which can provide relief for mild to moderate dry eye.

Lateral Tarsorrhaphy

During this procedure, the doctor will connect part of the upper and lower eyelids together to reduce how much of the eye is exposed. This minimizes the amount of tears that evaporates.

At-Home Treatments

Whenever possible, we aim to provide patients with the best dry eye treatment for their needs including the least invasive options. Some at-home treatments can help with dry eye syndrome. They include:

  • Dietary Supplements – We often recommend the use of Omega-3 supplements to improve symptoms. There are numerous studies that show the benefits of these supplements on dry eye syndrome.
  • Artificial Tears and Ointments – Some people with mild forms of dry eyes can benefit from the use of over-the-counter artificial tear products. They can provide immediate relief, but that relief does not last long. We recommend products that are appropriate for your condition.
  • Warm Compress and Eyelid Scrubs – We may prescribe medicated eyelid scrubs that can help to create a thicker, more stable lipid layer within the eyes, offering improvement for Meibomian gland dysfunction, rosacea and blepharitis.
  • Humidifiers, Air filters, and Environmental Modifications – Improving the environment can help to reduce symptoms in some individuals. The proper moisture level in a home can help to minimize tear evaporation. We may recommend the use of these systems to achieve optimal conditions.

What happens after treatment?

Little to No Recovery Time Needed

In many cases, dry eye treatments like medications and punctal plugs require little to no recovery time and should not significantly interfere with your daily life. With procedures such as amniotic membrane therapy, though, patients will often experience blurred vision for about a week. In general, you should avoid rubbing your eyes after treatment, keep your eyes moisturized, and take precautions to protect them from debris and irritation. With more invasive procedures like lateral tarsorrhaphy, you may experience some discomfort for several days. 

Overall, dry eye treatment has limited recovery requirements and a generally positive outcome. When planning your treatment, our doctors can provide specific recovery instructions and answer questions as needed.

Dry Eye FAQ

What is dry eye? Dry eye occurs when you don't make enough tears, or when the tears you make don't contain the right balance of ingredients. Autoimmune diseases, dehydrating medications, eyelid abnormalities, tear gland failure and neurological conditions that prevent normal blinking can all cause dry eye. Dry eye is also associated with reduced tear production due to aging.

What is tear film? A healthy, moisturized eye is protected by tears that issue from your tear glands. These tears coat the front of the eye in a multi-layered tear film consisting of water, lipids (oils) and mucous.

What else can cause dry eye? Environmental and lifestyle issues can all play a role in dry eye. Long hours of computer use, for instance, can cause you to blink too infrequently to generate tears. Ceiling fans, smoke and windy conditions can dry out your eyes as well.

Do any groups have a higher risk? Although the condition can occur at any age due to a variety of factors, dry eye syndrome or chronic dry eyes are more likely to occur in older men and women or those who take certain medications. Women are also more likely than men to experience dry eye symptoms due to hormonal changes during pregnancy or related situations. 

What are the symptoms of dry eye? Dry eye typically produces redness, itching, blurred vision and a gritty or "foreign body" feeling in the eye. You may also notice excess mucous from the eye, light sensitivity and trouble wearing contacts or driving. You may even experience watery eyes as a side effect of the irritation.

How seriously should I take this problem? Dry eye needs to be corrected, not ignored or lived with. Chronic dryness leaves the eye open to infections, damage from foreign bodies, and possible corneal scratches or ulcers.

How do you diagnose a case of dry eye syndrome? Our optometry team will examine your tear film composition and tear production levels to see whether your dry eye is based on a medical issue. We will also discuss your health history, lifestyle and any medications you may be taking.

What treatment options are available? Our dry eye treatment in Sunnyvale and Santa Clara typically includes eye drops for immediate relief of acute symptoms. Long-term solutions and suggestions may include having your doctor change your medications, limiting ceiling fan use, modifying your computer use habits and treating underlying tear gland problems.

Silicon Valley Eye Physicians 

Silicon Valley Eye Physicians team

Silicon Valley Eye Physicians is a leading vision care provider that has been serving the community for over 60 years. Our doctors are members of prestigious organizations, including: 

  • American Academy of Ophthalmology
  • The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology
  • Cornea Society
  • California Optometric Association

To schedule exams for your entire family, call our Sunnyvale office at (408) 739-6200 or request an appointment online.

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Sunnyvale Office

1010 W. Fremont Ave
Sunnyvale, CA 94087

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