Dry eye is a condition in which there is insufficient tear production to lubricate and nourish the eye. This lack of proper tear production results in a continuous irritation in the eyes. Tears are necessary for maintaining the health of the front surface of the eye, known as the cornea, and for providing clear vision.
Tears are spread across the cornea with each blink of the eyelids. These tears provide lubrication, reduce the risk of eye infection, displace foreign matter in the eye, and keep the surface of the eye smooth and clear.
Dry eye is caused by a multitude of factors. These include: age, gender, medications, medical conditions, environmental factors, and more. Dry eye is part of the natural aging process, so older patients are more likely to experience symptoms. Patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and thyroid issues may develop dry eyes as well. Other factors affecting the ocular surface include exposure to smoke, wind, usage of contact lenses, and failure to blink regularly.
Dr. Bentz and the doctors at the Bentz Eye Center diagnose dry eye by patient history and examination of the eyes. Dry eye can be a chronic condition, but many treatments are available to keep eyes healthy, more comfortable, and seeing clearly. Mild cases of dry eye can often be managed using artificial tear solutions. These can be used as often as needed to supplement natural tear production. In addition to artificial tear solutions, punctual plugs may be inserted to help retain further moisture. Dr. Bentz inserts plugs into the tear ducts, which are the openings at the inner corners of the eyelids. These plugs block the holes where the tears drain in order to keep more fluid on the ocular surface. There are prescription medications, Restasis and Xiidra, available that actually improve the patient’s own tear production. So, instead of just replacing tears, this medication improves the patient’s ability to produce their own tears.