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If you are experiencing itching, red, irritated, and/or burning eyes, you may have Dry Eye Syndrome. Dry Eye Syndrome occurs when normal tears are not sufficient to keep the front surface of the eye moist and well lubricated. At The Eye Associates we have a profound understanding of the causes of dry eyes and can customize a treatment plan for you. We have two Fellowship-Trained Dry Eye Specialists, Richard Hector, MD and Brian Foster, MD.

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More About Dry Eye Syndrome

Dry Eye Syndrome is a common problem for all ages, but it is more common as we get older. It occurs when your tears are not sufficient to keep the front surface of the eye, your cornea, well lubricated. The cornea needs constant lubrication by tears to stay healthy. "Tears are made up of three components: an outer layer of oil, a middle layer of water, and an inner layer of mucus." explains Dr. Foster "If you do not produce enough tears, or if the composition of your tears is not balanced, your eyes will not be properly lubricated. The result may be blurry vision, scratchy, itchy eyes, and pain."

Tears and Dry Eyes

Patients often feel their problem cannot be dry eyes, because their eyes overflow with tears. It may sound odd, but watery eyes are sometimes part of Dry Eye Syndrome. Dr. Richard Hector, our Fellowship Trained Dry Eye Specialist explains, “When the cornea becomes too dry, tear glands over stimulate the production of the watery component of your eye's tears. Unfortunately, these reflex tears do not lubricate well and may actually aggravate the problem.”

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Symptoms

If you have any of the following symptoms, ask your doctor if you have Dry Eye Syndrome.

  • stinging and itching
  • excessive tearing
  • burning sensation
  • inflammation and redness
  • sandy/gritty feeling
  • sensitivity to light

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Causes of Dry Eye Syndrome

  • Aging: Aging is one of the most common causes of dry eyes because tear production tends to diminish as you get older.
  • Environment: Hot, dry, and windy weather; heaters and air conditioners; and high altitudes increase the evaporation of tears. Ceiling fans are another common factor.
  • Computer Use: Computer users have a tendency to “stare” at a screen for long periods without blinking. This insufficient blinking pattern is often the cause for dry eyes in increasingly younger people.
  • Poor Lid Function: As you blink, your eyelids continuously spread a thin film of tears over the surface of your eye. Problems with eyelids, such as out-turning of the lids (ectropion) or an in-turning of the lids (entropion) contribute to dry eyes. Eyelid function can be addressed by our Fellowship-Trained Cosmetic Surgeon Prabin Mishra, MD, PhD.
  • Contact Lenses: Long term contact lens wear can negatively affect your tear production.
  • Medical Conditions: Hormonal changes, especially in women, can cause problems with dryness. Also, patients suffering from thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, eczema, Sjogren's syndrome, lupus, scleroderma, and other systemic conditions often experience dry eye syndrome. In addition, blepharitis, an inflammation of the eyelids, may be a cause.
  • Medications: Diuretics, allergy medication, antihistamines, and many other common medications may all produce dry eye symptoms. Also, a lack of some vitamins can increase dryness.

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Dry Eye Treatment

Dry Eye Syndrome is generally a condition that is not cured (depending on the cause), but it can be managed. The most common approach to controlling mild Dry Eye Syndrome is with the use of artificial tears to lubricate the cornea. There are many over-the-counter solutions and ointments designed to replenish natural tears.

However, artificial tears only offer temporary symptom relief and do not address the underlying problem, which often is inflammation. There is a FDA approved breakthrough prescription eye drop called Restasis™ designed to decrease inflammation, thereby helping to make tears that are more efficient in lubricating the eye. This not only increases the patient’s comfort but also prevents more serious damage from occurring.

In cases where eye drops do not give enough relief, plugs may be placed in the upper and/or lower tear drainage canals. This reduces the amount of tear drainage, helping to maintain better corneal lubrication.

Maybe it's not Dry Eyes?

Conjunctivochalasis or CCH is often misdiagnosed or overlooked because the symptoms are very similar to Dry Eyes. Between the eye and the eyelid is a thin clear layer of tissue called conjunctiva. The conjunctiva extends from the edge of your cornea to the inside of the eyelid and acts like a pocket that holds a reservoir of tears, keeping the eyes lubricated and comfortable. For some people, this tissue can loosen and wrinkle with age disrupting the normal process of keeping the eyes healthy with tears. This condition is called conjunctivochalasis. Due to the wrinkling and loosening of the tissue, tears are forced out and the eyes become dry, irritated, and vision can decline.

Drops, ointments, and even prescription medications that are effective for Dry Eye do not resolve CCH. Your doctor may recommend surgical treatment of CCH. The procedure involves removing excess conjunctival tissue and replacing it with an amniotic membrane tissue graft that adheres without stitches. Amniotic membrane has natural anti-inflammatory and anti-scarring properties that actively promotes the healing process and reducing discomfort after surgery. Smooth, healthy conjunctiva replaces the amniotic membrane graft in a few days. After the ocular surface is restored patients can expect improvement in dryness and irritation.

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A consultation is highly recommended to determine the nature of your dry eye symptoms and to develop a treatment plan. We recognize that dry eye syndrome as a very frustrating and complex medical problem and we treat our dry eye patients with compassion and understanding, in addition to using the best medical and surgical therapy available. There are no quick fixes, but our doctors will do their best to improve your vision and ocular comfort.

The only way to know what treatment option is right for you is to make an appointment for a dry eye evaluation. Call (941) 792-2020 or toll free 1-866-865-2020 or contact The Eye Associates for an appointment.

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West Bradenton:
Office, Surgery Center & The Optical Gallery
6002 Pointe West Blvd.,
Bradenton, FL 34209
(1 block south of Blake Hospital off 59th Street W)
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(Next to Burger King on SR 674)
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