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Dry eyes is a condition that is very common in Colorado due to our dry climate and intense ultraviolet light exposure. As we grow older, our eyes simply produce fewer lubricating tears. Combined with the climate, Colorado residents are naturally susceptible to dry eyes.
Both men and women may be effected by dry eyes, although women are more prone after menopause and during pregnancy. Contact lenses can contribute to dry eyes because they cause an increase in tear evaporation.
Common medications such as decongestants, antihistamines, diuretics, and anti-depressants can also cause dry eye. Underlying systemic conditions may contribute to dry eyes as well. Studies have shown that with computer use we blink 40% less, resulting in increased evaporation of the tears.
The diagnosis is made by a history of symptoms, and an eye exam. Severe dry eyes can result in corneal inflammation, i.e. keratitis, which is diagnosed using a fluorescein dye.
Sjogrens Syndrome is an autoimmune condition causing dry eyes and dry mouth. This can be diagnosed with a simple blood test.
The first line of treatment for dry eyes is non-prescription artificial tears. In addition staying well hydrated, running a humidifier, hot compresses, proper lid hygiene, and oral supplements such as flaxseed, fish oil, and Omega 3’s are all useful therapies.
If artificial tears are needed more than twice daily to stay comfortable, the second line of treatment is punctal plugs. The tears drain from the eye through openings in the upper and lower lids called the puncti. When a very tiny silicone plug is put into the “punctum”, the natural tears and artificial tears stay in the eye longer. This can help with the symptoms of dry eyes and increase contact lens tolerance. Dr. O’Rourke can insert the punctal plugs during an office visit, and the procedure is usually covered by medical insurance.
If symptoms are still present with punctal plugs, a prescription drop, Restasis, may be advised, which increases the eye’s natural tear production.
Amniotic Membrane in the form of a medicated contact lens can enhance the healing process in severe dry eye, providing nutrients to the cornea and a scaffold for regeneration of the outer cell layer of the cornea.
Northwest Eye Center has partnered with Essence Laser & Wellness since 2012 to offer a revolutionary treatment for dry eyes called IPL, Intense Pulsed Light, endorsed by the Mayo Clinic. We are one of the most experienced centers in the country for IPL for dry eyes, receiving referrals from doctors throughout the United States for patients who have failed standard dry eye therapy.
IPL improves the function of the Meibomian Glands along the lid margin. The purpose of these glands is to secrete the oily layer of the tear film, which prevents evaporation, a significant issue in our dry Colorado environment. IPL also coagulates the blood vessels along the lid margin, which release inflammatory components in the eye, thereby improving the symptoms of dry eyes. In our experience, 95% of patients who have failed other therapies have seen improvement with IPL. The procedure is performed in our Essence Laser Center adjacent to the Northwest Eye office.
Don’t suffer with the symptoms of dry eyes. At Northwest Eye Center we can help you find what works for you.