Dry eyes. The concept of having dry eyes may sound like a minor nuisance. It’s much more. If you’ve ever sat at a computer screen too long or stared at social media or Pinterest on your phone for longer than you care to admit, you have probably encountered the frustrating symptoms of too little tear film in your eye. On the upside, if grittiness, blurriness, burning, and tearing result from what we know as digital eye strain, you can trust that comfort will improve if you step away from the screen and close your eyes for a few minutes. The downside to dry eyes is that, for a third of adults in the world, this tactic doesn’t work.
Dry Eye Syndrome Needs Treatment
True dry eye syndrome is more complicated than neglecting to blink for several seconds. When dryness extends for several hours and only improves through the use of lubricating eye drops, there’s a problem in tear production. Only diagnostic screening with an eye doctor can determine what has gone wrong and what to do about it.
Our tears contain water, oil, and mucus. Each substance needs to exist in a particular ratio to the others in order for tears to do what they are supposed to, which is to keep the ocular surface moist. Tears are produced by glands in the eye. The mixture of substances is then spread across the eye when we blink. Usually, we don’t think about this process at all. We don’t usually have to. But when eye irritation becomes the norm, we must.
Diagnosing Dry Eye Disease
Studies show that a large percentage of people with dry eye disease don’t realize they have a tear production problem. Most people don’t give much thought to their eye symptoms; many just resort to using eye drops several times a day to improve comfort. The problem is, symptoms of dry eye disease persist until appropriate care is obtained. To reach a treatment plan, we first conduct specific testing that evaluates various aspects of tear production.
First, an eye doctor conducts a comprehensive assessment of symptoms to understand details like the severity and frequency of burning, tearing, and other irritation. Tests may then be conducted to measure how much tear film is being produced (Schirmer test), how much salt is in the tear film (tear osmolarity), and the rate at which tears evaporate (tear breakup test).