Serving Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania, Stafford, King George and the surrounding counties for over 40 years

Are you one of the estimated 4.88 million Americans that suffer from dry eye? At Access Eye, we can treat dry eye through various different methods.

The surface of the eye is continuously coated with a very complex, efficient and clear tear film. This tear film is generated within a gland in the upper and outer portion of the eye socket (Lacrimal Gland) as well as augmented by the secretions from the cells of the various layers that cover the eye. For a variety of reasons, it is common to have a lower than necessary level of tears (Dry Eye). The results range from mere annoyance to severe, serious problems with instability of vision and lack of integrity of the surface of the eye.

At Access Eye we have a long tradition of aggressively identifying and treating these problems in early stages. We have specific tests that indicate the presence of dry eye and its potential association with any underlying inflammation. Once diagnosed, treatment can range from supplemental artificial tears in mild cases to various mechanical ways of increasing the amount of tears available to the eye (Lacrimal Plugs). Medication to improve the secretion of tears is prescribed in select cases.

What Is Dry Eye?

Normally, the eye constantly bathes itself in tears. By producing tears at a slow and steady rate, the eye stays moist and comfortable.

But sometimes people do not produce enough tears to keep their eyes healthy and comfortable. Tear production normally decreases as we age or as a response to certain medical conditions or medications.

Alternatively, the quality of tears may be sufficient but not the quality. If the meibomian glands that produce the oily layer of the tear film become clogged or blocked, tears evaporate at an increased rate, and the eyes dry out.

Although dry eye can occur in both men and women at any age, it is more common in women.

Common symptoms of dry eye disease include:

  • Stinging or burning eyes
  • Scratchiness
  • Stringy mucous in or around the eyes
  • Excessive eye irritation from smoke or wind
  • Excess tearing
  • Discomfort when wearing contact lenses

If you are experiencing persistent symptoms of dry eye, you should see a doctor at Access Eye for a comprehensive evaluation.

Diagnosing Dry Eye Disease

Our doctors diagnose dry eye by examining the eyes — particularly the surface of the eyes — and testing the volume and quality of the tears. Tests are also performed to evaluate the composition of the tears.

Dry Eye Treatment Options

Access Eye offers different treatment options for dry eye disease. Some treatments are intended to improve tear quantity or quality and others are designed to prevent tears from evaporating too quickly off the surface of the eyes. Using artificial tears can help alleviate some of the uncomfortable symptoms.

Depending on the circumstances of your case, we may prescribe medication to stimulate the production of tears. Another option is to temporarily or permanently close your tear ducts to conserve your eyes’ own tears. We can do this by placing tiny silicone plugs in the tear ducts. This is a safe and effective procedure, performed in our clinic.

Our doctors can also recommend lifestyle modifications that may ease symptoms of dry eyes. For example, adding omega-3 fatty acids to your diet can help, as can taking frequent breaks when using digital devices and avoiding especially dry or smoky environments.

Frequently Asked Questions About Dry Eye Disease

What are the risk factors for dry eye disease?

Dry eye has been associated with the following factors:

  • Older age – i.e., after age 50
  • Contact lens wear
  • Working or living in a dry, smoky or windy environment
  • Smoking
  • Certain health conditions – e.g., diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome
  • Prolonged computer use that slows down normal blink rate
  • Certain medications – e.g., antihistamines, antidepressants, birth control pills

Is dry eye serious?

If left untreated, it can be. The most serious cases of dry eye can damage the ocular surface and permanently harm vision. But with the expertise of our dry eye specialists, we will get your case under control and give you relief from uncomfortable symptoms.

How can I manage dry eyes at night?

If you find your dry eye symptoms peak at night, there are several strategies you can try. Lubricating tears, gels and ointments that coat the eyes at night can help. A sleep mask or eye seal may help preserve moisture, too. If these at-home remedies do not work, it is best to consult with the Access Eye team about the root cause of the problem.

I heard watery eyes can be a symptom of dry eye disease. How is that possible?

Although it sounds unusual, watery eyes can suggest dry eye disease. When your eyes are not adequately lubricated, they can produce an abundance of tears. However, these tears are overly watery and do not have enough oil and mucous to stick to the surface of the eyes; as a result, they wash away from the eyes quickly. The solution is to rebalance the tear film and introduce more oil and mucous back to the tear film so the tears “stick” to the ocular surface longer.

Contact Access Eye Today

Access Eye is here to help you if you are suffering the uncomfortable symptoms of dry eye disease. To determine what is causing your symptoms and how to treat the problem, please request a consultation at one of our offices today.