Inflammation and Dry Eye Syndrome: What Is the Connection? By Walter Choate on January 31, 2018

Woman rubbing at a dry eye

Millions of Americans suffer from dry eyes. This condition results in a number of uncomfortable side effects, most notably, an itchy or burning sensation on the surface of the eyes. Dry eye can impact the health and function of the eyes and, without treatment, can lead to more serious vision complications.

There are many potential causes of dry eye, but recently, research has connected dry eyes to inflammation on the surface of the eye. Dr. Walter Choate can discuss the role of inflammation in dry eyes with his Nashville, TN, patients, and explain how this new information changes our approach to treating dry eyes for the long term.

How Inflammation Affects the Tears

When the eyes and tear ducts are healthy, the eye produces a sufficient amount of tears to keep the surface of the eye moist. In addition, the tears that are produced contain oils and nutrients that are vital to the health of the eye tissues. Tears are important because they allow the eyes to blink smoothly, they create a clear surface that promotes good vision, and they block out bacteria, dirt, and other potentially damaging particles. Patients who suffer from dry eye either fail to produce adequate tears or produce tears that are deficient in important oils and nutrients. Recently, studies have found that many cases of dry eye can be linked to inflammation.

Inflammation is a natural response of the body’s autoimmune system. When the part of the eye responsible for producing tears experiences inflammation, it can affect that production. Individuals with inflammation on the surface of the eye are not likely to produce an adequate amount of tears. Inflammation also affects the quality of the tears, making it more likely that the tears that are produced will lack essential nutrients. Unfortunately, this creates a vicious cycle. Inflammation compromises the quantity and quality of the tears, which further aggravates dry eye, which then leads to increased inflammation.

Causes of Inflammation

There are a number of different factors that can trigger the body’s autoimmune response and lead to inflammation on the surface of the eye. Some of the most common causes of eye inflammation include:

  • Allergic reaction
  • Dirt, dust, or smoke in the air
  • Hormonal changes
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Previous eye surgery
  • Prolonged use of contact lenses

Treating Dry Eye

This new research into inflammation and dry eye has improved the way Dr. Choate treats the condition for his patients. Previously, dry eye was treated with the use of artificial tear drops. While this may improve the symptoms of dry eye, it really doesn’t treat the condition itself. Knowing that the root of dry eye is likely inflammation, we can now determine the cause and treat dry eye at its source. By getting to the root of dry eye, Dr. Choate can provide patients with more effective, long-lasting relief from dry eye symptoms.

Contact Us

If you regularly suffer from dry, itchy eyes, it is time to schedule an eye exam to examine the cause of the condition. Dr. Walter Choate is happy to conduct a thorough examination and put together a treatment plan that is best-suited to your unique needs. Contact us at your earliest convenience to learn more about our comprehensive range of eye care services. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Dr. Choate

Choate Eye Associates

Choate Eye Associates has been delivering high-quality, compassionate eye care to the Nashville community since 1979. We are affiliated with various leading organizations in the field, including: 

  • American Academy of Optometry
  • American Optometric Association 
  • National Board of Examiners in Optometry 

To schedule a consultation at our practice, call us at (615) 851-7575 or request an appointment online

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"I am very pleased with the attention I received at Choate Eye Associates. Dr. Choate is very thorough and does a wonderful job of explaining what he is doing and what he is looking for in the exam." Dianal - Comprehensive Eye Care Patient

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