Dry Eye Center of Excellence
SERVING LOVELAND, FORT COLLINS, GREELEY, LONGMONT & AREAS NEARBY IN COLORADO
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 970-669-1107 to schedule an appointment with our doctors. We proudly serve patients in Loveland, Windsor, 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 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 (aqueous) layer that cleans the eye
- An oily outer layer that minimizes tear evaporation
The oils secreted on the outer layer of your tear film come from the Meibomian gland. This oily layer is responsible for providing the protective coating that keeps the aqueous layer functioning properly. When the Meibomian gland becomes blocked, your eye doesn’t produce a sufficient amount of oil to protect the aqueous layer of your tear film. It can result in excessive evaporation of the water contained in the aqueous layer, causing an uncomfortable friction between your cornea and eyelid. This condition is called Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD).
Approximately 86% of dry eye cases are caused by MGD. If this condition isn’t treated properly, the obstructed Meibomian glands will gradually produce less oil over time until the gland fully atrophies and stops producing oil entirely. At this point, you may be at risk of chronic discomfort and damage to the surface of your eye which may have a long-term impact on your vision.
Other factors which may potentially increase your risk of dry eye syndrome include:
- Dry climate
- Certain medications
- Auto-immune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis
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
Symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome
Dry Eye Treatment
The first step in treating dry eye syndrome is to determine the precise cause of your condition. We use LipiScan as a diagnostic tool to identify whether your dry eye symptoms are being caused by MGD. LipiScan provides our doctors with a high definition image of your Meibomian glands, allowing him to evaluate whether these glands are functioning properly.
We use TearLab to determine your tear osmolarity. An elevated osmolarity is highly indicative of dry eye syndrome.
After thoroughly examining your eyes, our doctors will recommend the best treatment for your unique situation and specific needs. At Kirk Eye Center, we offer a full range of solutions for dry eye syndrome, including:
- 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). Our doctors 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.
- LipiFlow – This electronic device treats MGD by utilizing Vectored Thermal Pulsation technology that applies heat to your inner eyelids in conjunction with gentle massaging. It is highly effective at removing any obstructions from the Meibomian glands in order to restore proper oil flow to the outer layer of your tear film.
- BlephEx – This treatment cleans your eyelids to main proper hygiene in the region. It can be used in conjunction with other treatments to significantly reduce the risk that dry eye symptoms will return.
- Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) Therapy – IPL therapy corrects the underlying cause of dry eye syndrome by liquefying and releasing the hardened oils blocking the Meibomian glands responsible for producing the oily outer layer of your tear film.
- Restasis/Zidra – This prescription eye drop lubricates the eye’s surface while also reducing inflammation. It helps your body produce natural tears, keeping your eyes healthy, moist and comfortable.
- 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.
- 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.
How Does Lipiflow Differ from BlephEx?
Several treatments have been developed to bring dry eye syndrome under control. There is a reason we have multiple options; because each works slightly differently. Lipiflow and BlephEx are two examples.
LipiFlow is a popular dry eye treatment that reduces dry eye symptoms by addressing the dysfunctional meibomian glands in the eyes. These are the glands that are involved in tear production. Studies indicate that approximately 85 percent of dry eye cases are caused by meibomian gland dysfunction. During the LipiFlow treatment, the blockages within these glands are loosened with gentle pressure and heat. The unblocked glands can then resume their normal function.
BlephEx is also designed to treat dry eye syndrome, but it does so by focusing on treating blepharitis. This common condition occurs when natural bacteria along the eyelids grow uncontrollably. It's normal and healthy to have some bacteria around the eyes, but too many leads to redness, inflammation, pain, and excessive tearing. BlephEx works by very gently soaking the eyelid tissue along the lash line with a microsponge, and then removing the loosened debris that is causing irritation.
How Do I Know Which Dry Eye Treatment is Right for Me?
With such a variety of dry eye treatments available, it can be difficult to choose! The good news is this is more about necessity than choice. Your eyes will tell us which treatment would be most effective at improving your comfort and vision. Here at Kirk Eye Center, we perform a comprehensive assessment of your eyes, including your meibomian glands, to help us understand the origin of your symptoms. We'll look at the level of tear production your eyes are maintaining and also the quality of your tear film. Your doctor may also explore any other conditions or lifestyle habits that may be contributing to your symptoms. The goal of our thorough consultation and examination is to guide our treatment planning around the most accurate factors, leading to the best possible treatment outcomes.
Can I Control Dry Eye Syndrome with only Lubricating Eye Drops?
If you have chronically dry eyes, it would make sense that the goal is to achieve consistent lubrication. In fact, artificial tears, which come in multiple forms, are usually the first level of care for dry eye patients. This can depend on various factors, though, and should only follow a comprehensive examination of the eyes and tear film. Using nonprescription artificial tears for dry eye syndrome could do more harm than good.
Consider that many commercial eye drops are made with preservatives. This prolongs their shelf-life. However, if you're applying lubricating drops with preservatives several times a day, some of the ingredients could ultimately worsen your eye irritation. If you need to apply eye drops more than four times a day, it's imperative that you purchase artificial tears without preservatives. These may not cause irritation. They also may not provide sufficient relief.
Lubricating tears can also come in ointment form. For more severe dry eye symptoms, an ointment may be recommended. However, ointments, due to their thickness, may be better for nighttime use. This is because you may experience cloudy vision for more than a few minutes after applying this type of artificial tears.
Because there are several factors that can influence dry eyes, the ideal approach to remedying your symptoms is to consult with your ophthalmologist.
Contact our Loveland Ophthalmologist
If you are experiencing symptoms of dry eye syndrome, please contact Kirk Eye Center using the form on this page or call 970-669-1107 today to schedule an appointment with Dr. John D. Kirk. We serve patients in Loveland, Windsor, Fort Collins and throughout Northern Colorado.