What is dry eye?

November 17th, 2015 by Carolina Eye Associates

Dry eye, also known as dry eye disease, is a common condition that occurs when your tears aren’t able to provide enough lubrication for your eyes.

There are two major categories of dry eye:

  • Aqueous tear-deficient dry eye is a disorder in which the lacrimal glands fail to produce enough of the watery component of tears to maintain a healthy eye surface.
  • Evaporative dry eye or Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD) is now considered the leading cause of dry eye. It is caused by inflammation of the Meibomian glands, located in the eyelids. These glands make the lipid or oily part of tears that slows evaporation and keeps the tears stable.

Dry eye is most prevalent in women over 40 and men over 50 and is more common in women after menopause.  However, it is possible for dry eye to occur at any age. Dry eye is uncomfortable. If you have dry eye, your eyes may sting or burn. Signs and symptoms, which usually affect both eyes, may include:

  • A stinging, burning or scratchy sensation in your eyes
  • Eye redness
  • Eyes feel “tired”
  • Difficulty wearing contact lenses
  • Watery eyes, which is the body’s response to the irritation of dry eyes
  • Blurred vision


Depending on the cause of dry eye, your doctor may use various treatment methods to relieve the symptoms.

Aqueous tear-deficient dry eye is treated with artificial tears and gels. Your eye doctor may also suggest plugs inserted into the ducts that drain tears from your eye to your sinuses. This keeps the tears in contact with the eye longer. He or she may also use prescription eye drops, oral medications or vitamin supplements (containing omega 3 fatty acids) depending on the type and severity of the dry eye.

In some cases, a simple surgery, called punctal cautery, is recommended to permanently close the drainage holes. The procedure helps keep the limited volume of tears on the eye for a longer period of time.

The best method of treating MGD is to restore the function of the oil-producing glands lining the rim of the eyelid. This is best accomplished by a procedure using heat and massage to re-establish the function of most of the glands at one time. There are also tear supplements which help to replenish the oil component.

Individuals with chronic evaporative dry eye caused by blocked glands may be a candidate for the LipiFlow Thermal Pulsation System. The goal is for LipiFlow to unblock the glands, improve oil secretions and provide symptom relief. LipiFlow works by applying directed energy to the eyelids near the affected glands – precisely targeted warmth from the back of the eyelid and slight pressure from the front.

If you’ve had signs and symptoms of dry eye, see your eye doctor to diagnose the type of dry eye you have. This will allow you and your doctor to determine the best treatment plan to meet your needs.

For more information on dry eye or to schedule an appointment call Carolina Eye Associates at (910) 295-1501 or toll-free at (800) 733-9355.

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