Your tears contain a balance of proteins, electrolytes, and vitamins important to the overall health of your eyes. Tears act as a natural lubricant for the surface of your eyes, keep your vision clear, and wash away dust and other foreign debris. The tear layer also helps prevent bacterial eye infections.
When things work properly, tears are constantly produced in the lacrimal glands to nourish and protect the surface of your eyes. If your lacrimal glands don’t produce a sufficient quantity of tears on a regular basis or if the composition of your tears is out of balance, dry eye can result.
Inflammation of the surface of the eye also may occur with dry eye. If left untreated, this condition can lead to pain, ulcers, or scars on the cornea, and some loss of vision. However, permanent loss of vision from dry eye is uncommon.
Dry eye can make it more difficult to use a computer or read for an extended period of time. It also may decrease tolerance for dry environments and may explain why your eyes react when you turn on the furnace in the winter and use the air conditioner in the summer.
Dry eye can be a long-term condition or a temporary issue related to a multitude of factors, including:
After an eye exam, Dr. Pallan may suggest further tests to determine the extent and cause of your dry eyes, such as TearLab for salt concentration of the tears or InflammaDry® to look for markers of inflammation.
Depending on the nature of your dry eyes, she may recommend therapies that include:
Eye exam combined with sophisticated analysis of the composition of your tears. Samples of tears are analyzed for osmolarity (salt concentration) using TearLab and for inflammatory markers using InflammaDry. Positive tests confirm the need for prescription medication to help relieve dry eye disease.