What Is Dry Eye?
Tears are critical to the eyes for lubrication, cleansing, and protection. Healthy eyes are continually bathed by tears produced by a combination of three glands located above both eyes. Sometimes a person has a decrease in tear production, or the tears produced are of poor quality. The result is a condition called dry eye.
Dry Eye Symptoms
For example, some symptoms of dry eye can include:
- Stinging or burning eyes
- Stringy mucus in or around the eyes
- Excessive tearing
- Excessive eye irritation in windy or smoky conditions
- Scratchiness on the eyes
- Discomfort wearing contact lenses
Why Does Tear Quality Matter?
Every time your eye blinks, a film of tears washes down the front of the eyeball, keeping it smooth and clear. When healthy, these tears consist of three layers: an oily layer, a watery layer, and a mucus layer. The oily layer, produced by the Meibomian glands, is the outside layer. Its purpose it to reduce tear evaporation and smooth the tear surface. In the middle is the watery layer we usually associate with tears. The lacrimal gland produces this layer that cleanses and washes out any foreign particles or irritants. The inner layer consists of mucus produced by the conjunctiva. Mucus allows the tears to adhere to the eyeball.
Tears need to have all three layers to perform their function on the eyes.
What Causes Dry Eye?
Generally speaking, dry eye can result from various problems. As we age, everyone’s tear production drops. This is especially true of women after menopause. Often, tear quality is diminished when the Meibomian gland is blocked because tears evaporate too quickly from the eye without the protection of the outer oil layer. A variety of medications can also reduce tear production: antihistamines, diuretics, beta-blockers, sleeping pills, nerve medications, and pain relievers.
Dry eye really comes down to one of these (or a combination of) three problems:
- Lack of saline water
- Dysfunctional Meibomian oil glands
- Inflammation of the glands that make the saline water and oil
Treatments That Don’t Work
Dr. Murrell sees many patients who are at wit’s end with their dry eye. They’ve tried artificial tears and other treatments intended to increase the tears’ watery layer. They may even have had plugs placed in the punctum in the corners of the eyes to limit tear drainage into the nose.
But Dr. Murrell often finds that two components of dry eye are overlooked — oil dysfunction and tear film inflammation. The oil component becomes compromised when the Meibomian glands become dysfunctional.
Lipiflow and EyeXpress
Dr. Murrell is the only M.D. in the United States to use two state-of-the-art treatments together to manage severe dry eye due to oil dysfunction: Lipiflow and EyeXpress. Both systems heat the dysfunctional Meibomian oil glands, but in different manners. EyeXpress heats the oil glands outside the upper and lower eyelids, freeing the glands and lubricating the eye over a series of usually four treatments.
Combining these two methods synergistically, he can give the ultimate comfort to patients suffering from this painful condition. By taking photos and videos of your eye, Dr. Murrell can accurately diagnose dry eye and can easily show that diagnosis to his patients. Dr. Murrell then works together with the patient to create a successful treatment plan that can be performed totally or partially in office.
Dr. Murrell completed his ophthalmology residency at Texas Tech University, one of the premier Dry Eye research centers in the United States. Researchers at Texas Tech developed one of the first artificial tear drops to treat Dry Eye.
LipiFlow uses a disposable eyepiece to apply controlled heat to the inner eyelids and intermittent gentle pressure to the outer eyelid. This facilitates the release of lipids from the blocked Meibomian glands, allowing the natural flow of lipids to resume. The procedure is painless, and Dr. Murrell treats both eyes at once. In short, the procedure takes around 20 minutes.
EyeXpress uses a goggle system that administers heat to the upper and lower eyelids simultaneously. The gentle heat encourages the oil glands in the eyelids to open and resume their role in normal tear production. Like LipiFlow, the procedure in non-invasive, comfortable, and doesn’t require much time.
Preventing Dry Eye
There are some ways dry-eye symptoms can be prevented. Small lifestyle adjustments such as wearing protective glasses on windy days or increasing breaks when reading or doing other vision-intensive tasks can help decrease the recurrence of symptoms.
Schedule a Consultation
To schedule a Dry Eye consultation appointment with Dr. Murrell, call: (806) 351-1177.
“You deserve the best, and so do your eyes.” – Dr. Murrell