eye-321961_640_1.jpgChances are that at one point or another, you’ve seen an ad or a commercial for a product designed to treat the symptoms of a condition known as dry eye. But while some of these ads and commercials can be almost comical in their presentation, dry eye is actually a serious problem for many people. In fact, the National Eye Institute reports that nearly five million Americans 50 years of age and older are estimated to have dry eyes. These numbers show that the need for dry eye treatments is very real – and not as funny as some commercials would have you think.

At Everett & Hurite Eyecare Specialists, we understand the seriousness of dry eye and its impact on our patients' lives. Despite the comedic portrayal often seen in ads and commercials, we know that dry eye is no laughing matter!

What Is Dry Eye – And Why Is It So Problematic?

“Dry eye” or “dry eyes” – or, as it’s known among doctors, dysfunctional tear syndrome  – refers to a condition where an individual’s eyes cannot produce the high-quality tear film needed for good vision. This creates symptoms such as dryness, pain, and blurred vision, all of which can affect the cornea and conjunctiva.

Tear protection is necessary to keep an eye nourished, healthy, and infection-free. Throughout the day, our eyes are naturally kept lubricated and free of foreign particles or pathogens, all thanks to our habit of blinking. Each blink naturally spreads a small amount of moisture across our eyes' surface, helping keep our eyes healthy and our vision clear.

When the eyes are “dry,” either because of a low volume or low-quality tear production, this natural barrier that’s designed to keep our eyes healthy is compromised. Dry eye removes this moisturizing barrier, and it can be a potentially serious chronic issue if not properly addressed.

Why Tears Are Essential for Healthy Eyes

Tears are more than just a sign of emotion; They are essential for healthy eyes. Some of the benefits that they bring include:

  • Tears lubricate the eyes for smooth blinking.
  • They maintain the moisture balance on the eye surface.
  • Tears protect against irritants and foreign objects.
  • They deliver nutrients and oxygen to the eyes.
  • Tears aid in healing minor eye injuries.
  • Crying provides emotional relief and regulation.

Types Of Dry Eye Disease

Dry eye disease can be categorized into Aqueous Deficient Dry Eye and Evaporative Dry Eye.

1. Aqueous Deficient Dry Eye 

This type of dry eye occurs when the lacrimal glands do not produce enough of the watery component of tears to maintain a healthy eye surface. This could be due to aging, certain medical conditions like Sjogren’s syndrome, or damage from radiation or laser eye surgery.

2. Evaporative Dry Eye 

This is the most common type of dry eye disease and occurs when tears evaporate from the eye surface too quickly. This is often due to inflammation or dysfunction of the meibomian glands (glands located in the eyelids that produce the oils that prevent the evaporation of tears).

Within these two categories, there are also several specific types of dry eye disease:

  • Sjögren's Syndrome: This is an autoimmune disorder that attacks the glands, which causes tears and saliva, leading to severe dry eyes and dry mouth.
  • Non-Sjögren's Dry Eye: This is a form of aqueous deficient dry eye that occurs without the presence of Sjögren's syndrome. It can be caused by various factors such as age, hormonal changes, or certain medications.
  • Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD): This is a common type of evaporative dry eye where the meibomian glands do not secrete enough oil or secrete poor-quality oil. This causes the tears to evaporate too quickly.
  • Blepharitis-Associated Dry Eye: Blepharitis, an inflammation of the eyelids, can disrupt the oily part of tears produced by the glands in the eyelids, leading to an evaporative dry eye.
  • Contact Lens-Associated Dry Eye: Long-term use of contact lenses can lead to dry eyes by disrupting the tear film or causing inflammation.
  • Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS)/Digital Eye Strain: Prolonged use of digital screens can lead to dry eyes due to decreased blinking rate, causing increased tear evaporation.


Dry eye occurs when our eyes can no longer maintain an adequate layer of tears. In many cases, dry eye results when one of the components normally found in tears is diminished. Tears are supposed to be composed of three parts or layers: an oil (or lipid) layer, a water layer, and a mucin layer. These three components are each created in a different part of the eye; after they’re made, they work together to help keep your eyes healthy, smooth, clear, and infection-free. However, some people cannot produce enough tears to contain these three parts. When this happens, their tears evaporate faster than they should, leading to dry eye symptoms.

There are, however, other potential causes of dry eye, including:

  • Age: Dry eye is a progressive disease. As we age, more of us become symptomatic from dry eye. Also, symptoms get worse as we continue to age. A majority of people over the age of 65 experience dry eye symptoms to some degree.
  • Medications: Some medications can reduce the amount of moisture that’s produced by your eyes. Common culprits include antihistamines, decongestants, blood pressure medications, and antidepressants.
  • Medical issues: Individuals with rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Sjogren syndrome, diabetes, and thyroid problems are more likely to have dry eye symptoms. Issues that cause inflammation of the eyes can also increase your chances of developing dry eyes.
  • Environmental factors: If you live in a city, if you deal with a windy or dry climate, or if you’re exposed to smoke on a regular basis, your eyes are more likely to dry out too quickly, leading to dry eye symptoms.
  • Daily habits: Your habits – such as failing to blink when you stare at a computer screen all day, smoking, or even wearing contacts – can increase your chances of developing dry eye. A good diet and proper hydration are also important.


People with dry eyes can suffer from a range of mild to severe symptoms. These symptoms include:

  • Persistent sensation of dryness
  • Tearing or watery eyes (Strange but true! Dry eye is the most common cause of tearing. It’s usually a sign that the patient is unable to produce the right consistency and/or amount of moisture)
  • Irritation and/or pain and redness
  • Eye fatigue, especially if it presents when you’re reading, watching TV, or doing computer work
  • Sensitivity to light
  • A gritty, scratchy, or burning sensation in the eyes
  • A sensation that something is in the eye (even if nothing is there)
  • Blurry vision

In advanced cases of dry eye, people can suffer physical damage to the front surface of their eye and may even find that their vision is impaired permanently by the condition.

Diagnosing Dry Eye

Diagnosis of dry eye syndrome involves several tests and procedures to determine the cause of the condition. These can include:

  1. Comprehensive Eye Exam: This is an all-inclusive eye exam that checks for any abnormalities in your eyes, including signs of dryness.
  2. Dilated Eye Exam: In this test, drops are placed into your eyes to widen or dilate the pupils. Your eye doctor uses a special magnifying lens to examine your retina and optic nerve for signs of damage and other eye problems.
  3. Measuring the Amount and Thickness of Tears: A Schirmer's test can be used to measure tear production. In this test, blotting strips of paper are placed under your lower eyelids. After five minutes, your doctor measures the amount of strip soaked by your tears.
  4. TearLab: The TearLab system measures your tears' osmolarity (salt content). High salt content may indicate dry eye disease.
  5. Slit Lamp Exam: A slit lamp allows your doctor to check the health of your eyes under high magnification. It can reveal any signs of dry eye, such as inflammation or damage to the eye surface.
  6. Tests for Tear Film Dysfunction: There are various reasons for tear film dysfunction, including hormone changes, autoimmune diseases, inflamed eyelid glands, or allergic eye diseases. Tests will be conducted based on your symptoms and history.
  7. LIPCOFs (Lid parallel conjunctival folds): These are small, horizontal lines in the conjunctiva under the upper eyelid and can indicate dry eye.

Can Dry Eye Be Treated?

Yes, while dry eye cannot be cured, there are over-the-counter and prescription treatments for it. These treatments can help return your eyes to a healthier and more comfortable state. Treating dry eye can also prevent it from getting worse. New research shows the importance of treatment to preserve the tear function we have. Ignoring dry eye now may just lead to worse problems later.

If you’re experiencing dry eye symptoms, your best bet is to meet with your eye doctor and to let them properly examine and even test your eyes. This will give you a chance to discuss the severity of your dry eye, and it will ensure that you use the right dry eye treatment for you. This can also help ensure that your dry eye does not lead to more serious problems down the line.

Once you’ve met with your eye doctor, many treatment regimens may be recommended for you.  At Everett & Hurite, we focus on health and wellness treatments for dry eye, especially in early or mild cases.  More advanced cases may warrant medications or procedures, but we will work with you to find a regimen that is tailored to your situation. Treatments that may be recommended for you may include:

  • Eye drops (either OTC or prescription): These can directly help increase and improve eye moisture levels.
  • Ointments: These may be prescribed to help reduce swelling around the surface of the eye or help people who aren’t getting enough relief from just using normal eye drops.
  • Punctal occlusion or Punctal plugs: If eye drops fail to alleviate dry eyes, doctors may recommend using one of these aids to slow the drainage of tears from the tear ducts and increase the amount of moisture in the eyes.
  • Lipiflow: This procedure can help to clear out blocked oil glands in the eyelids and can help you naturally protect your healthy tears.
  • Self-care: Making efforts to blink regularly, creating a more humid home or work environment, taking nutritional supplements for eye health, and staying hydrated may help some cases of dry eye.

Though dry eye is an aggravating condition to live with, it’s also a manageable one. If you fear that you may be developing dry eye, we encourage you to visit with our staff ASAP so we can take a look and begin to help you see clearly and normally again – without interference!

Risk Factors

Several risk factors can increase the likelihood of developing dry eye. These include:

  1. Age: Dry eye becomes more common as we age, with the risk increasing significantly after age 50.
  2. Gender: Women are more likely to develop dry eye due to hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy, menopause, and hormonal therapies.
  3. Environmental Factors: Exposure to certain environments, such as dry or windy climates, air conditioning, and smoke, can contribute to developing dry eye.
  4. Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as autoimmune diseases (e.g., Sjögren's syndrome), diabetes, thyroid disorders, and vitamin A deficiency, can increase the risk of dry eye.
  5. Medications: Some medications, including antihistamines, decongestants, antidepressants, hormone replacement therapy, and certain blood pressure medications, can cause or worsen dry eye symptoms.
  6. Contact Lens Wear: Contact lens wearers may experience dry eye symptoms, particularly if lenses are worn for extended periods or not properly cleaned and cared for.


Untreated or poorly managed dry eye can lead to complications impacting your eye health and daily life. Some potential complications include:

  1. Eye Infections: Insufficient tear production can make eyes more susceptible to infections, leading to redness, pain, and discharge.
  2. Corneal Damage: Prolonged dryness can damage the cornea's clear front surface of the eye, potentially leading to corneal ulcers and vision problems.
  3. Decreased Quality of Life: Chronic dry eye can significantly affect daily activities, such as reading, computer use, and driving, causing discomfort, blurred vision, and difficulty focusing.


While it may not be possible to prevent dry eye completely, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk or manage the condition effectively:

  1. Blink Regularly: Make a conscious effort to blink frequently, especially when using digital devices or in dry environments, to help distribute tears evenly.
  2. Use Eye Protection: When exposed to dry or windy conditions, wear wraparound sunglasses or use protective eyewear to shield your eyes from irritants.
  3. Take Breaks: If you spend long periods staring at a screen, take regular breaks to rest your eyes and reduce strain.
  4. Adjust Your Environment: Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air in dry indoor spaces and avoid exposure to smoke or other irritants.
  5. Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water to maintain overall hydration, which can help support tear production.
  6. Consult an Eye Care Professional: Regular eye exams can help detect and manage dry eye early on, ensuring prompt treatment and preventing complications.

Take the First Step towards Relief with Everett & Hurite Eyecare Specialists

Living with dry eye can be frustrating, but you don't have to suffer in silence. At Everett & Hurite Eyecare Specialists, we are dedicated to providing compassionate care and effective solutions for dry eye. Our team of experts is ready to guide you through the treatment process and help you regain comfort and clarity in your vision.

Don't let dry eye hold you back. Contact Everett & Hurite Eyecare Specialists today to schedule an appointment and take the first step towards finding relief. Your eye health matters, and we are here to support you every step of the way.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can dry eye be cured?

While there's no definitive cure for dry eye disease, its symptoms can be managed effectively in most cases. Treatment options include artificial tears, prescription eye drops, lifestyle changes, and, in some cases, surgical interventions. Regular follow-ups with an eye care professional can help manage the condition and maintain comfort.

What are artificial tears, and how do they help with dry eye?

Artificial tears are over-the-counter eye drops that supplement natural tear production. They help moisturize the eyes and provide temporary relief from dry eye symptoms such as itching, burning, or a feeling of something in the eye. Artificial tears come in various formulations, and your eye care professional can recommend the type that will be most helpful for your specific condition.

Can long-term use of contact lenses cause dry eye?

Yes, long-term use of contact lenses can contribute to dry eye. Contact lenses can disrupt the tear film on the eye's surface, leading to increased tear evaporation. Additionally, certain types of contact lenses can absorb the tears in your eyes, leading to dryness. If you wear contact lenses and are experiencing dry eye symptoms, discussing this with your eye care professional is important.

Is dry eye a temporary or chronic condition?

Dry eye can be either temporary or chronic, depending on its cause. Temporary dry eye can be caused by environmental factors such as dry air or wind or by tasks that reduce blinking, like reading or computer work. Chronic dry eye is often due to underlying medical conditions or long-term use of certain medications. It's important to have persistent dry eye evaluated by an eye care professional, as effective treatments are available.