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Dry Eyes Are Common but Can Often Be Treated Easily

Dry eyes are a frustrating eye condition that occurs when a patient’s tears are unable to provide enough moisture. This may be caused by any number of reasons such as aging, certain medications, or even damaged tear glands. Dr. Paul S. Gulbas and Dr. Mark J. Gallardo can diagnose and treat dry eyes at their El Paso, TX office. Dry eyes are a common condition that may be temporary or long-lasting. In either case, you should consult with your eye doctor to discuss the possible causes and treatment options. 

About Dry Eyes

Dry eyes are very common and occur when your tears do not adequately lubricate your eyes. Your eyes may either not produce enough tears, or the tears that are produced may be poor quality. There are many symptoms of dry eyes, including stinging or burning, eye redness, the sensation that you have something in your eye, trouble wearing your contacts, trouble seeing at night, blurred vision, tired eyes, or watery eyes. You may have any combination of those symptoms with dry eyes, and if any last longer than a couple days, you should see your doctor.

Side-by-side illustration of a normal eye and dry eye

Causes of Dry Eyes

Dry eyes are caused by either an inadequate amount of tears or poor-quality tears. Your tears are a combination of water, oils and mucus that keeps the surface of your eye lubricated and protects against infection. You may be experiencing decreased tear production, an increase in tear evaporation, or a tear mixture imbalance. Decreased tear production may be caused by:

  • A medical condition such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, thyroid disorders, and many more
  • Medications such as antihistamines, decongestants, anti-depressants, and medications to treat high blood pressure, acne, birth control, and Parkinson’s disease
  • A temporary side effect of laser eye surgery
  • Tear gland damage from inflammation or radiation

Increased tear evaporation is typically caused by environmental factors such as smoke, dry air, and wind, but can also be caused by not blinking enough while reading, driving, or looking at a computer screen. Eyelid problems can also cause too much tear evaporation. An imbalance of your tear mixture may be caused by blocked glands that are responsible for producing the oil in your tears. This is commonly seen in patients with ocular rosacea or other skin disorders.

Dry eyes are a common condition that may be temporary or long-lasting. In either case, you should consult with your eye doctor to discuss the possible causes and treatment options.

Diagnosis

Dr. Gulbas or Dr. Gallardo will conduct a thorough exam, including your eyes and overall medical history, to determine if you have dry eyes and to find a possible cause. In addition to an eye exam, your tears may be measured using the Schirmer test, where strips of blotting paper are placed just below your lower eyelids. After five minutes, we will measure the amount of the strip that was dampened by your tears. We may also measure the quality of your tears using a special dye to determine the condition of the surface of your eyes and how long your tears take to evaporate.

Treatment Options

Close-up of drops being instilled in an eyeIf we determine that you have dry eyes, there are a number of treatment options available to you. Your doctor may wish to start with you an over-the-counter (OTC) treatment such as eye drops or ointments to see if that alleviates your symptoms. Eye drops are available as preservative and nonpreservative. Preservative eye drops may be taken up to four times daily. If you need drops more frequently, nonpreservative drops may be a better option for you. Ointments can provide long-lasting relief. However, ointments are thicker than drops and may blur your vision, so these are best used before bed.

For persistent symptoms that don’t respond to OTC options, your doctor may focus on treating any possible underlying causes or prescribe you medication. If your dry eyes are caused by a medication, he may suggest an alternative medication. If your dry eyes are caused by an eyelid condition or a health condition, he may refer you to a specialist. He may also prescribe a prescription medication including:

  • Oral or topical antibiotics to reduce inflammation
  • Eye drops containing cyclosporine or a corticosteroid to reduce cornea inflammation
  • A cellulose eye insert that dissolves slowly and acts as artificial tears
  • Cholinergics to stimulate tear production (pills, gels, or eye drops)

If your condition is resistant to other treatments, your doctor may recommend partially or completely closing your tear ducts with microscopic, removable silicone plugs, or more permanently using heat. This procedure prevents tears from leaving your eye too quickly. Another option may be to wear special scleral or bandage contact lenses that protect the surface of your eye and trap moisture. 

Contact Us

Drs. Gulbas and Gallardo would be happy to discuss your treatment options in more detail with you during your appointment. If you are looking for relief from the symptoms of dry eyes, contact us today to schedule an appointment.

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