Diagnoses And Treatment

How is dry eye diagnosed?

An ophthalmologist (Eye M.D.) is usually able to diagnose dry eye by examining the eyes. Sometimes tests that measure tear production may be necessary. One test is called the Schirmer tear test. It involves placing filter-paper strips under the lower eyelids to measure the rate of tear production under various conditions. Another uses a diagnostic drop (fluorescein or Rose Bengal) to took for certain staining patterns.

How is dry eye treated?

Adding Tears

Eye drops called artificial tears are similar to your own tears. They lubricate the eyes and help maintain moisture.

Artificial tears are available without a prescription. There are many brands on the market, so you may want to try several to find the one you like best.

Preservative free eye drops are available if you are sensitive to the preservatives in artificial tears. If you need to use artificial tears more than every two hours, preservative free brands may be better for you. Solid artificial tear inserts that are placed inside the lower lid on a daily basis and gradually release Lubricants may be beneficial to some people.

You can use the tears as often as necessary---once or twice a day or as often as several times an hour.

Conserving the tears

Conserving your eyes' own tears is another approach to keeping the eyes moist.

Tears drain out of the eye through a small channel into the nose (that is why your nose runs when you cry). Your ophthalmologist may close these channels either temporarily or permanently. The closure conserves your own tears and makes artificial tears last longer.

Other Methods

Tears evaporate like any other liquid. You can take steps to prevent evaporation. In winter, when indoor heat is on, a humidifier or a pan of water on the radiator adds moisture to dry air. Wrap-around glasses may reduce the drying effect of the wind, but are illegal to wear while driving in some states.

A person with dry eye should avoid anything that may cause dryness such as an overly warm room, hair dryers or wind. Smoking is especially bothersome.

Some people with dry eye complain of "scratchy eyes" when they wakeup, This symptom can be treated by using an artificial tear ointment at bedtime; Use the smallest amount of ointment necessary for comfort, since the ointment can cause your vision to blur temporarily.

Dry eye due to a lack of vitamin A in the diet is rare in the United States but is more common in poorer countries especially among children. Ointments containing vitamin A can help dry eye if it is caused by unusual conditions such as Stevens-Johnson syndrome or pemphigoid. Vitamin A supplements do not seem to help people with ordinary dry eye.