Dry eye syndrome, or more accurately described as dysfunctional tear syndrome, affects more than 30 million Americans. It occurs when your tear glands produce either an inadequate amount or an insufficient quality of tear film. These complications can cause tear evaporation and considerable discomfort.
Dr. John Kirk understands the impact dry eye syndrome can have on your life and is committed to providing the safest and most advanced methods for examining, diagnosing and treating the condition. If you are suffering from dry eyes and you are ready to find relief, Kirk Eye Center can help.
Please call (970) 744-2566 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Kirk. We proudly serve patients from Loveland, Windsor and Fort Collins and throughout Northern Colorado.
What Causes Dry Eye Syndrome?
A healthy tear film is necessary to keep the surface of your eyes moist, smooth and clear. Your tear film is not made up of water. Your tear film is made up of three main layers:
- A sticky inner mucous layer that helps the tear film adhere to the surface of your eye
- A watery middle layer that cleans the eye
- An oily outer layer that minimizes tear evaporation
If one of these layers is disrupted, it can cause problems with the others. If, for example, the oily outer layer of your tear film is deficient, your tears may evaporate too quickly, causing your eyes to feel dry, coarse and achy. The body sometimes reacts to this problem by overproducing tears, which results in excessively watery eyes.
Dry eye syndrome can be caused by a broad range of factors, including:
- Dry climate
- Certain medications
- Auto-immune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis
It is a chronic and typically progressive condition.
Symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome
Some of the most common symptoms of dry eye syndrome include:
- Blurry or double vision, particularly in the morning or evening
- Increased irritation from allergens and smoke
- Difficulty with contact lenses
- Eye fatigue
- Light sensitivity
- Feeling as though something is in your eye
- Burning sensation in the eyes
- Soreness in the eyes
- Scratchy, gritty feeling eyes
- Excessive tearing
Dry Eye Treatment
Since dry eye syndrome can result from a number of causes, a variety of treatment methods may be considered. After thoroughly examining your eyes, Dr. Kirk will recommend the best treatment for your unique situation and specific needs. Treatment options at Kirk Eye Center may include:
- Artificial Tears: For mild cases of dry eyes, artificial tears or other lubricating eye drops are often the first step toward relief. Eye drops come in a variety of ingredients and viscosity (thickness). Dr. Kirk will explain which option is best for you.
- Gels and Ointments: Similar to artificial tears, gels and ointments are recommended by Dr. Kirk to help lubricate and soothe your uncomfortable eyes.
- Tear Duct Plugs: Also called punctal plugs, a tear duct plug is a small device that is inserted into the inner corners of your eyelids, preventing tears from draining away from the eye.
- Restasis: This prescription eye drop lubricates the eye’s surface while also reducing inflammation. It helps your body produce natural tears, keeping our eyes healthy, moist and comfortable.
- Steroid Eye Drops: These eye drops are often used in conjunction with artificial tears and Restasis to manage inflammation issues. These are typically used as short-term treatments to compliment long-term solutions.
- Serum Tears: In severe cases, the immune factors present in your bloodstream can be beneficial in counteracting the autoimmune factors that contribute to dry eyes. Serum from your blood is combined with artificial tears to produce serum tears.
Restasis is one of the most common treatments for dry eye syndrome. It is the first and only FDA-approved medication that treats the cause of dry eyes, not just the symptoms. For optimal results, you'll need to take two doses of Restasis each day. These daily doses will cost about $100 per month if you use two vials (the cost is between $15 and $40 with most insurance co-pays).
Pharmacists and the patient booklet suggest using two vials per day, but the following regimen is the unanimous consensus of many leading dry eye and Restasis experts, and it will reduce your medication costs by 50%:
- Instead of using two vials per day, you can use only one if you are very careful and detail-oriented. Snap the neck off one of the little dose vials and put the drops in your eyes in the morning. Do not insert contact lenses or instill any other eye drops (even artificial tears) for at least 30 minutes.
- Lean the vial up against the side of a small glass and put it in the refrigerator. It is imperative that you keep the tip clean and the vial cold to avoid bacterial reproduction, as the medication is unpreserved.
- In the evening, remove the same vial from the refrigerator, put the drops in both eyes, and discard the vial.
When you first take Restasis, you may feel a little burning upon instillation. About 17% of patients have very mild burning. The burning always goes away within a couple of weeks, at most.
A small percentage of patients develop burning 3-6 weeks after starting the medication, as the eye returns to a more healthy and normal state. It will also go away after a couple of weeks and not develop again.
Your eyes will feel better every day. It takes 3-6 months to achieve the maximum therapeutic benefit, so you must be patient. It is also important to continue using the drops long term or the dry eye condition will return.
Contact Kirk Eye Center
If you are experiencing symptoms of dry eye syndrome, please contact Kirk Eye Center using the form on this page or call 970-744-2566 today to schedule an appointment. We serve patients in Loveland, Windsor, Fort Collins and throughout Northern Colorado.