Understanding the Connection Between Dry Eye and Inflammation
Millions of Americans suffer from dry eyes. This condition occurs when a patient is unable to produce enough quality tears to maintain healthy eyes and clear vision. In some cases, inflammation of the eyelids or surfaces of the eyes can contribute to and exacerbate this disorder. Fortunately, Dr. Walter Choate has over 35 years of experience treating eye conditions, such as dry eye and inflammation. At Choate Eye Associates in Goodlettsville, TN, we work carefully to identify the root cause of patients' dry eyes, which allows us to provide the most successful treatment.
Inflammation and Your Ocular Health
When you blink your eyes, the corneas are lubricated with tears. When the delicate structures which produce and distribute tears are not working together harmoniously, dry eyes can develop. In addition to a lack of tears, dry eyes may also be triggered by poor-quality tears. Tears are made up of water, oil, and mucus. If any of these three components are out of balance, dry eyes may develop.
Inflammation of the eyelids or surfaces of the eyes can contribute to and exacerbate dry eyes. Severe cases can result in damage to the cornea, but the condition is treatable.
The causes and effects of dry eye syndrome can vary dramatically from patient to patient, but cases can be generally categorized as aqueous-deficient or evaporative. Although inflammation is not typically a primary cause of evaporative dry eye, it is a common secondary effect. In contrast, inflammation appears to play a role in the development of aqueous-deficient dry eye. Many patients with dry eyes also suffer from meibomian gland dysfunction, in which an inflammatory response can be triggered by an abnormal tear film.
Causes of Inflammation
Meibomian gland dysfunction is closely linked to a fairly common condition known as blepharitis. Blepharitis is characterized by inflammation of the eyelid margin. It can be caused by infection, parasites, and skin conditions such as rosacea and psoriasis, among other factors. Often, patients are genetically predisposed towards developing blepharitis.
If Dr. Choate finds that dysfunction of the meibomian glands is contributing to your dry eye, treatment will be designed to restore their full and proper function. Many patients find that scrubbing the eyelids with baby shampoo or a prescription solution each day provides sufficient relief. Others will require medicated anti-inflammatory drops or ointments, or in-office procedures, such as intense pulsed light (IPL) therapy.
Effects of Inflammation
Patients who develop dry eyes may experience a number of compounding symptoms, many of which are caused or worsened by inflammation. Some of the most common signs of the condition include:
- Itchy or scratchy sensations
- Pain or discomfort
- Gritty or irritated feeling
- Blurred vision
- Sensation that something is stuck in the eye
- Excessive watering
In severe cases of dry eye, especially those classified as inflammatory, the corneas may even become damaged. If left untreated, this can even lead to impaired vision.
Individually Tailored Treatment
As we begin to learn more about the role that inflammation plays in dry eye, treatment is becoming even more effective. If you are experiencing signs of dry eye, schedule a consultation at Choate Eye Associates. We can help to alleviate frustrating, uncomfortable symptoms so you can enjoy life to the fullest again. Give us a call at (615) 851-7575 or contact us online anytime.