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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.

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. For some, the problem is mostly 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 are much more likely to develop this problem. 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.

Burning, itchy, or gritty eyes could mean you suffer from dry eye syndromea condition which affects nearly 5 million Americans, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Although the condition is very common, it is also very misunderstood. In order to prescribe the appropriate treatment, the doctors at Silicon Valley Eye Physicians use state-of-the-art technology to accurately diagnose and treat your unique case. We are one of the only practices in Sunnyvale, CA, 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.

Our team can help you understand how dry eye is affecting your life and administer the treatment you deserve.

Understanding Dry Eye 

One of the most common misconceptions about dry eye is that it is caused by a lack of tears. Depending on your unique condition, this may not be the case and over-the-counter artificial tears may not provide sufficient, long-lasting relief from your symptoms. Dry eye can occur as a result of two different causes, either tear deficiency or lack of tear quality, which both fail to keep the eye properly lubricated. In both cases, patients experience a variety of uncomfortable symptoms including pain, redness, and dryness. 

A woman rubbing her watery eyes.

A Closer Look at Symptoms

Most people who suffer from dry eye report that their eyes feel itchy and irritated. In some cases, redness of the eyes may also occur. Others with more severe cases of dry eye syndrome typically report that it feels like they have a foreign body stuck in one or both of their eyes, which can be associated with a gritty feeling that is very uncomfortable. 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.

What Happens at the Eye Exam?

During your exam, our doctors will perform a series of tests including LipiScan™ exams, tear breakup, and gland expression to achieve an accurate diagnosis. Our practice 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. 

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

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.

Your test results will allow us to determine which treatment option suits you best.

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, sicuss your concerns with one of our eye care specialists to get the treatment you need. 

Medication Treatment of Dry Eye

Among our medication treatment options for dry eye syndrome are the following:

  • Cyclosporine A 0.5% (Restasis) – These are the only FDA-approved eye drop for dry eye treatment. Used twice a day for up to six months, it can reduce inflammation on the surface of the eye.
  • Corticosteroid Drops and Ointments - Often used along with other medications, this treatment can reduce the symptoms of dry eye including reducing inflammation for those who have ocular surface disease and other dry eye conditions.
  • Antibiotics Drops and Ointments – For those suffering from blepharitis or Meibomian gland dysfunction, these medications can work to kill the bacteria present. This bacterium commonly breaks down the lipid layer, causing dry eye symptoms.
  • Oral Antibiotics – These medications also work to kill bacteria present on the glands and lid margin. Antibiotics penetrate the gland and can be helpful for those suffering from ocular rosacea or rosacea.

In-Office Treatments

Our in-office treatments for improving dry eye are numerous. When you visit us in Sunnyvale or Santa Clara dry eye treatment like these procedures can be helpful.

  • LipiFlow – This treatment option is beneficial to those who suffer from Meibomian gland disease that causes discomfort and dry eye. The procedure involves the application of heat to the inner eyelids. With gentle pressure, it helps to release the lipids from the glands, improving your symptoms.
  • Amniotic Membrane Therapy – In this procedure, the thin, semitransparent tissue harvested from the placenta during a Cesarean section known as amniotic membrane, is applied. When used in treatment for dry eyes, the healing process is faster and less inflammation is present. It’s less painful and less likely to lead to scaring of the eye.
  • Punctal Occlusion – This procedure, which only takes a few minutes, works to reduce the normal drainage of tears, helping to build up a larger reservoir. This helps the eyes to remain moist and comfortable. This is done using plugs that remain present in a semi-permanent manner.
  • Therapeutic Prosthetic Scleral Devices and Scleral Lens Therapy – To improve comfort and restore vision in individuals with severe ocular surface disease, this therapy is used. The devices used in it rest in the conjunctiva and near the whites of the eyes. It creates a “vault” that helps provide relief as it is filled with fluid.
  • Lateral Tarsorrhaphy – In this procedure, doctors sew about a third of the eyelid together to reduce the amount of exposed ocular surface. This helps reduce the amount of evaporation of the tear film.

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.

The Benefits of Treatment 

Dry eye can be uncomfortable and dramatically affect your overall quality of life. Fortunately, it is treatable for most patients. When prescribed by an experienced doctor, treatment outcomes can usually provide long-term relief from your dry eye symptoms. 

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.

Visit Our Practice for Treatment 

Our doctors have completed extensive training in the diagnosis and treatment of dry eye. In addition, our practice is one of the only offices in the Bay Area equipped with state-of-the-art technology. With the help of our talented team, you can receive customized treatment that addresses your unique condition at the source rather than temporarily relieving your symptoms. 

To schedule your consultation, call us at (408) 739-6200 or request an appointment online

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Sunnyvale Office

1010 W. Fremont Ave
Sunnyvale, CA 94087

Open Today 8:30am - 3:00pm

More Info Directions (408) 739-6200

Santa Clara Office

3159 Mission College Blvd
Santa Clara, CA 95054

Open Today 8:30am - 4:00pm

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